Anyhow, this was 1998 – long before the Florida Miscount of 2001 – and the Great British City of Birmingham… my city… was hosting the G8 Summit of world leaders. Mr Bill was in attendance, of course, and he proceeded to charm the pants off all the Brummies he met. I can still remember the TV footage: the most powerful man in the world supping warm ale in a pub that overlooked a stretch of canal that had been specially purged of bicycle parts for the event.
He seemed quite comfortable in Birmingham, but in 1998 I imagine he’d have felt quite comfortable anywhere that wasn’t in the United States. This, after all, was the year the Lewinsky scandal broke. He was being accused of having an extra-marital affair with an intern, and press, pundits and political enemies were endlessly scrutinising over every sordid detail of his sexual shenanigans. Mr Bill initially denied any wrong doing by famously saying: “I have never had sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky.” It later turned out that his definition of sexual relations did not include a certain intimate act that’s known in some quarters as a Parisian Mouthwash.
The semantic distinction only came to light after the aforementioned Ms Lewinsky handed over to investigators a famous blue dress. What made the blue dress so famous is that it featured a crusty old stain that later turned out to be fossilised Presidential manjuice. Now I’m no expert on matters of haute couture, but I don’t think that look caught on.
I remember being baffled by the whole thing, and I remain so to this day. Being a simple-minded fool, I’d much rather live in a world with a US President who’s partial to getting blown off than with a US President whose passionate about blowing things up. But that’s just me, and I’m digressing. Let’s get back to Birmingham.
For the duration of the G8 Summit, President Bill Clinton and his entourage block-booked the entire Marriott Hotel. Back then it had 5-stars, not 4. And it wasn’t called The Marriott. No, it had a name that – in light of his troubles back at home – must have had a certain personal resonance with the visiting Commander in Chief.
I like to think he saw the funny side of it.