They waited, resigned and tired, yet eager and hopeful too. And that was just the admittedly impressive line for the bathroom. The line for the author was even worse.
As early as 10 a.m. Wednesday, folks hoping to share a moment with Hillary Clinton and get a copy of her new memoir signed began queuing up at the Book Revue in Huntington for an event that would not begin until 6 p.m. The crowd was quite diverse in age, but far less so otherwise: at least 95 percent of the attendees were women, which says a lot about Clinton and also, according to publishers, a lot about who actually buys books these days.
By 5 p.m. a crowd of protesters also began accumulating, across New York Avenue from the store. That group, which eventually numbered about 50, featured a lot more males, a lot more shouting, and some of the most execrably misspelled posters I’ve ever seen. Highlights included “tortue” and “Gazza” and as for how they mangled Benghazi, you don’t even want to know from it.
Also out in front of the store was the big “Waiting for Hillary” bus, the bright-eyed “Waiting for Hillary” workers, and the glossy “Waiting for Hillary” paraphernalia.
Inside, one of the first in line was Pat Lukaszewski of Syosset, potentially the oldest autograph seeker at 84, who greeted Clinton by pointing to her companions and bellowing (it was a very charming bellow, but a bellow nonetheless), “That’s my granddaughter, and that’s my great granddaughter.” The infant was Esme Burke, an adorable 1-year-old who, considering that she’d been waiting with her mom and Pat for about three hours, exhibited a saintly patience.
“We’ve always been big Hillary fans,” Pat told me. “Always.”
I believed her, but if my memory serves, she’s not in the majority with the “always” thing. Twenty years ago even many of those who believed in Bill were a bit iffy about his spouse. Too often she came off brittle, superior and impatient.
A lot more people do love Hillary now, and I know plenty of people who, having once truly disdained the former secretary of state, have grown into at least a grudging sort of respect for her.
Part of it is that we have a tendency to become fond of people who prove they are built to last. How else can you explain the popularity of Jimmy Carter, or even that other Clinton, liked by some when he left office but seemingly beloved by many more now? Attitudes are softening toward George W. Bush, as they did toward his father.
But Hillary’s growth in appeal isn’t just about longevity. She’s better with the people now, and seemed to take a sincere joy in meeting them, chatting and gesturing expressively as she signed. It’s as if we started liking her a bit more because she started to like us a bit more, too.
The editorial board of Newsday sometimes deals with people who know Clinton fairly well. When we ask if she’s running, the vast majority say she absolutely, positively is. The way the book signing was organized, even just the fact that it was organized, suggests that’s true. She doesn’t need to sign books and financially, doing so does her no good. No matter how many volumes she signs she’s never going to earn out her reported $14 million advance for “Hard Choices,” which isn’t selling all that well.
And if I hadn’t felt pretty strongly that she was running before Wednesday, I certainly would have after I cleared the press security line. I don’t care how many times she says she hasn’t decided, experience tells me that when the detail confiscates my Double Big Gulp of Mountain Dew and my disposable lighter and traps me in a cordoned-off corral with a herd of anxious, iPhone-obsessed journalists for hours, it’s officially a presidential campaign.