“Bill” is one of the greatest songs in one of the greatest of all Broadway musicals – “Showboat.” The show – originally produced in 1927 and written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein – was immediately recognized as a watershed. It was one of the first story lines to mix seriousness and spectacle, one of the first popular entertainments to tackle the issue of race, and one of the first musicals to contribute to the culture a bevy of songs destined to endure as classics.
While some of these songs are as familiar as they are famous – “Ol Man River” is an example – others are less so. Others songs from “Showboat” are less familiar and less famous, though they are equally gorgeous – among them “Bill.”
“Bill” is a song of love, from a woman to a man, a man who is other than “god-like,” other than brilliant or fabulously handsome. To the contrary. This Bill, the Bill from “Showboat,” can’t play golf or tennis, he isn’t “tall or straight or slim, and he dresses far worse than Ted or Jim.” Rather this Bill is “an ordinary man,” nothing special, nothing to brag about. But he is, the song makes plain, a good man, a man who makes the woman singing the song feel good and “comfy.” He makes her feel secure and well loved, “because he’s just my Bill.”
The song came to mind as Hillary Clinton recently made plain yet again that her Bill, her husband Bill, Bill Clinton, was anything other than ordinary – he was extraordinary. Bill Clinton was so extraordinary, in fact, that if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States, she will, she said, put her husband “in charge of revitalizing the economy, because, you know, he knows how to do it.”
No mention of how exactly the former president would fit into a policy-making role in a second Clinton White House. No mention of precisely what part he would play alongside, say, the Secretary of the Treasury, or the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers. No mention of what supposedly would be his portfolio. Instead her assumption is simple: her Bill is so remarkable a man that he can do something, successfully, that no one else has ever done before.
Here’s my view of it. Bill Clinton should be retired. He should retire himself, withdraw from consideration from any position in another Clinton administration. Nothing against either one of them. But if Hillary Clinton is elected president, one Clinton working in the White House will quite suffice, thank you.
Whatever his gifts may be, I at least have had quite enough. Enough of Bill Clinton extraordinary man. I pine for “Bill an ordinary man” – Bill who hasn’t got “a thing that I can brag about.”