Alex Massie

Presidential Candidates Through the Lens of Wodehouse

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In my sourer moments I find myself persuaded that Bertie Wooster's verdict on aunts also applies to politicians: "It is no use telling me that there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof."

Never is this more the case than during a Presidential campaign. The sheer ghastliness of the front-runners is something to behold. Or not, as the case may be.

Try as I might, for instance, I find it hard to warm to Hillary Clinton even as I acknowledge that some of the hysteria surrounding her is absurdly overblown. And yet, there's something to it too. This story in today's Washington Post about Hillary's struggle to appeal to male voters won't have pleased the campaign much, (it's pretty anecdotal for one, and, for another, she is doing slightly better with white men than might be imagined). Still, it's undeniable that there's something about Hillary's demeanour that puts people off. It's not as simple as her being a woman, though that doubtless disqualifies her in some folks' eyes, but that she's a particular type of woman.

As always Wodehouse is an invaluable guide to matters of the heart. Dipping into The Inimitable Jeeves last night, it struck me that, for a certain kind of chap, Hillary is the Honoria Glossop of the presidential campaign. It's not just that Hillary's now infamous "cackle" is dangerously reminiscent of Miss Glossop's laugh "that sounded like a squadron of cavalry charging across a tin bridge."

No, it's more that Hillary too often gives the impression of sharing Honoria's horrifying determination to mould a fellow. To wit, one can easily imagine Hillary addressing a chap, thus:

"I think" she said "I shall be able to make something of you, Bertie. It is true yours has been a wasted life up to the present, but you are still young, and there is a lot of good in you...It simply wants bringing out."

But what if you don't want bringing out? Opting out ain't an option with this sort of girl. And it gets worse. When Hillary isn't being Honoria Glossop she's reminding one of Florence Craye. Now it's true that Bertie was briefly infatuated with Miss Craye. But that was until he engaged Jeeves and was persuaded that Miss Craye was a thoroughly unsuitable match (See Carry On, Jeeves for the details). As Bertie realised:

"The root of the trouble was that she was one of those intellectual girls, steeped to the gills in serious purpose, who are unable to see a male soul without wanting to get behind it and shove."

Some of us might prefer to remain un-shoved. Worse still, whenever a girl of Florence's type engages one to stick one's neck out for her - by, for instance, stealing a manuscript -  she tries to persuade you that it's really for your own advantage. She risks nothing, of course, whereas your allowance is endangered. But no, she will say:

"I wonder you can't appreciate the compliment I am paying you - trusting you like this"

Alas, I can just hear Hillary putting it like that. Can't you?

So, as you can see, fiancees can be as cloven-hoofed as aunts and politicians. I admit that the Wodehouse vote may be too much of a microtrend or niche for even Mark Penn to have analysed but I'm as confident as one can be that Mrs Clinton does poorly amongst Wodehouse fans.

Still, looking on the brighter side of things, since no-one could imagine Hillary suggesting that "the stars are God's daisy chain" she is unlikely to be considered the Madeline Bassett of the primary season.

That would be Mike Huckabee.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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