Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 7 Issue 3 | January 18, 2008 |

  Cover Story
  View from the   Bottom
  Writing the Wrong
  A Roman Column
  Dhaka Diary
  Book Review

   SWM Home


A Bangali Rooting for Hillary Clinton

Syed Badrul Ahsan

Hillary Clinton

Suddenly there is something pungent in the air. And it is all about things happening in the United States. Hillary Clinton has just beaten Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary and so proved that opinion polls ought not to be trusted all the time. The projections were that Obama, fresh from his triumph in Iowa, would beat the New York senator by as many as ten percentage points. That did not happen. In London, hours before dawn, the returns began coming in. As one who has taken intense interest in America's presidential elections since I was ten, I cheered the Clinton victory, even though I thought Senator Obama's speech congratulating her was a whole lot more lyrical and spontaneous than her own. But it was happiness for me just the same.

Only days earlier, I had written to my brothers in Washington that I had been saddened by Mrs. Clinton's third place finish in Iowa and was hoping she would win in New Hampshire. One of them wrote back to say he was rooting for Obama. The same was true of the other brother. I am not sure where another brother of mine and my sister, who are in Dhaka, have positioned themselves on the issue. Personally, though, I have been explaining to people the reason why I think Hillary Clinton should be the next president of the United States. She has a grasp of the issues, she has been a competent senator, she is focused. All said and done, she is prepared to be president. That did not cut much ice with Geraldine Clayton, a good friend of my wife's and mine. At her book-lined home in Maidenhead in the beautiful English countryside, over sumptuous lunch, she and her friend Jane refused to buy my arguments in favour of Clinton. Geraldine thought Mrs. Clinton was too opportunistic an individual, a fact proved by her refusal to ditch her husband at the height of the Lewinsky scandal in the late 1990s. Any other woman would have refused to take such infidelity lying down, she told me. But she did not, in her own selfish interests. As for the point about her preparedness for the White House, both Geraldine and Jane (and they had now been joined by my wife Zakia) echoed the Obama theme of change. And so that was that.

I came away from Maidenhead with a couple of books, both by Barack Obama, loaned to me by Geraldine. One is a recent work, The Audacity of Hope. The other, Dreams From My Father, was written by the Illinois senator when he was thirty three and yet to be a national figure. It is all about his search for the Kenyan father who walked out of his life when he was barely two years old. Obama's language is lucid, pretty riveting. And that is only natural, given that he used to be editor of the Harvard Law Review. No one who does not have a very large degree of intellectual prowess gets to edit such a prestigious journal. I am still reading and should be done with the books soon. But I still think it is Hillary Clinton who should be president this November. Obama is young, only forty five, and can bide his time till 2016, assuming of course the former First Lady does get nominated, does get elected and ends up serving two terms in the White House. But when my good friend Ivor Lucas, a former British diplomat, and I raised the subject of the US elections over lunch at the Royal Overseas League in London last week, it was Obama that Lucas appeared to be supporting. Hillary Clinton, said he, was a throwback to the past. He implied that it was unnecessary and unwieldy baggage that came with her.

Clinton meets her fans.

My brother-in-law, who lives and works in Washington, called to say he had been saddened by Obama's defeat in New Hampshire. All I could tell him was that a whole tranche of primaries was ahead and that it was yet too early to know who would end up getting the Democratic nomination for president. Politics these days is a slippery affair. Frontrunners often get run down as the day of reckoning approaches. The Republican Mitt Romney, who has already spent a fortune trying to win in Iowa and New Hampshire, has lost in both places. I am beginning to wonder if he will end up the way his father George Romney did in 1968. The elder Romney, then governor of Michigan, led every opinion poll in 1967 on the question of who would secure the Republican nomination for president in 1968. Then he went to see American troops in Vietnam, was happy about the imminent defeat of the communists and then, one improbable morning, realised that senior US military officials had fed him glowing, false information on the way the war was going. It was going badly for America. That confession saw his ratings plummet. It was Richard Nixon who got to be president. He gave Romney a place in his cabinet, as secretary for housing and urban development.

American politicians are not my politicians. An American president has little to do with the way I live my life in Bangladesh. But there is always that mystique about the men and women who pursue the profession of high politics in America. There is mystique about Hillary Clinton, she is graceful, confident and enormously talented. Which is why I still think she should be the next president of the United States.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007