Belfast Telegraph

Why US might be ready to elect a female president, but just not Hillary Clinton

By Lindy McDowell

Exactly 150 years ago, early in the morning of this day in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died from a bullet wound to the head. He had been shot the night before as he sat in a box at Ford's Theatre in Washington with his wife and their guests.

The assassin was a well-known actor called John Wilkes Booth, who'd crept into the box, barricaded the door behind him, shot the President, stabbed another man, and then leapt 12 feet to the stage below catching his foot on a flag as he fell. Sic semper tyrannis, he'd cried. Thus always to tyrants.

The play the president and his friends had been watching was a comedy called Our American Cousin.

All these years on, our American cousins, their dramas, their triumphs, their tribulations and their political power plays continue to fascinate and affect us back on this side of the Atlantic.

Sometimes they have even involved us ...

Freshly coiffed and in subtle soft-focus, Hillary Clinton announced this week that she was ready to run (again) for the presidency. All these years on from old Abe's era, America has yet to hail a female chief.

But is Hillary really the woman for the job?

No sooner had she thrown her hat in the ring than the hashtag #WhyImNotVotingForHillary was trending.

Shrillary, as some critics unkindly call her, is a divisive candidate. She's slated for everything from past performance - the Benghazi horror and more recently her problems with email feature among other low points - to her wealth and even her age. She's now 67. (Although as one online poster did point out: "At least she didn't kiss Drake at Coachella.")

There are digs at her relationship with Bill - how can she control the country when she can't even control him, asks one tweeter tartly.

Old Bill himself is both campaign gold and a massive voter turn-off. (During Hillary's last campaign there was some suggestion that his heart wasn't entirely in the supportive husband role - one observer memorably summed up the former President's seeming reluctance to play second fiddle: "The thing you have to remember about Bill is that he's Gladys Knight. He's not a Pip.")

Bill was/is undoubtedly popular with many. A lucky leader from that golden era before the barbarity of 9/11 and then the ghastliness of global recession.

But his behaviour in office - and beyond - and what's seen as the Clintons' sense of entitlement rankles with many, too.

From the perspective of this side of the pond it does seem bewildering that out of a population of around 319 million people, the search for a head of state seems to narrow down every election campaign to two families - Clinton and Bush. Can't they find anybody else?

Money talks too in US politics, as increasingly it does in our own local elections. Being a "name" also undoubtedly helps. Tellingly though, interest in Northern Ireland affairs, while once important, no longer features.

During her previous campaign, Hillary made reference to her role in our peace process, inferring that a brief photo op where she had tea with a group of local women was a pivotal moment in the same. In fairness, she wasn't the first, or the last, to overstate her role as local peacemaker.

And anyway the world has moved on from us and our Troubles.

But you have to wonder if our American cousins haven't moved on a bit from Hillary, too. If her day hasn't come - and gone.

US voters may well elect a female leader next time around. It would be another of those great milestones in the history of the American presidency.

There's just no guarantee that the name of that first lady who will follow in the footsteps of Washington and Lincoln and all those other greats will be Clinton.

Murray serves up a modest triumph

The widow of cricketing legend Richie Benaud turned down an offer from the Australian government to give the deceased a state funeral.

She said her husband had wanted no fuss and had made it clear he preferred a small, private gathering with only immediate family.

Meanwhile, tennis star Andy Murray got married in his hometown of Dunblane without any bling or flashbulbs or hubbub or Hello!

Two sportsmen. Two very different generations. But sharing those two laudable and rare attributes we don't always associated with our sporting stars these days. Modesty and dignity.

TV's posh nosh is too hands on for me

If we non-cooks have gleaned anything from TV's obsession with cookery shows it's how horribly hands-on posh food has become.

Take Masterchef, with Gregg Wallace, where amateurs battle for supremacy over the pan-fried polenta. The food is daintily assembled on the plate like a Lego construction.

This morsel of fish is balanced on top of this sliver of roasted cauliflower and this wee lettuce leaf is carefully placed on the side just so. Then you sprinkle this toasted herby stuff over the top. It's all done with fingers. And with sweaty heads bent dangerously low over the grub in concentration. It would put anybody off their dinner.

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