Letter: Things that only a wife can say

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The Independent Online
Sir: Bruce Anderson ('President Billary and the liberal dilemma', 25 January) mars a serious discussion of the ideas of the Democratic Party by personal criticism of President Clinton for willingness to listen to the advice of his wife. This is a line of argument which goes back to Adam in the Garden of Eden, and the Almighty was right to find it distinctively unimpressive.

There is a different tradition which argues that a ruler's greatest need is for someone who will give frank advice not fuelled by the promotion-driven urge to tell him what he wants to hear. The value of such advice need not depend on its correctness. It depends on the need for intellectual challenge. Perhaps only a spouse can muster the combination of devotion and disrespect which such advice demands.

It is also instructive to look at the absence of similar criticism of male spouses. One of the few refreshing features of the Thatcher years was the absence of any voyeuristic interest in searching for the hidden hand of Sir Denis. What was sauce for the gander should be sauce for the goose.

Yours sincerely,

RUSSELL

House of Lords

London, SW1

25 January

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