While speaking to the National Automobile Dealers Association in New Orleans today, Hillary Clinton confessed that "the last time [she] actually drove a car myself was 1996. I remember it very well. Unfortunately, so does the Secret Service, which is why I haven't driven since then."
It's not that surprising — since being first lady she's held a steady stream of high-profile gigs — and Clinton handled her lack of time behind the wheel far better than George H.W. Bush did his lack of time at supermarkets. As far as political gossip goes, it's hard to get less consequential than this. But as always, the inconsequential offers an opportunity for reflection. So, what else can we add to the list of things Hillary Clinton — and perhaps America — hasn't done in the past 18 years? Here are a few ideas.
8. Have to worry about facing a monkey in a presidential election.
Bill Clinton was in the middle of an intense reelection bid in 1996 against Bob Dole and third-party candidate Ross Perot, but the University of Pennsylvania advanced another potential dark horse candidate in late August — Binti-Jua, a gorilla who saved a 3-year-old who fell in her exhibit at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. A fax the university sent to the zoo, in the middle of Binti's moment of being an international celebrity, read "Binti for President. Vote Primate." Luckily for the Clintons, Binti was only eight years old, and thus ineligible to run for the presidency.
7. Win a presidential election
Bill Clinton won his reelection bid in November 1996, which was the last time a Clinton has waged a successful presidential bid. Verdict's still out on whether this is something they'll try again.
6. Face off against Al D'Amato — in congressional investigations or on the New York Times Bestseller list.
In 1996, New York senator Al D'Amato was leading the Senate probe into the Whitewater scandal against Bill and Hillary Clinton. He also published a book at around the same time as Hillary Clinton. Hers was "It Takes a Village," about parenting and politics. His was "Power, Pasta, and Politics: The World According to Senator Al D'Amato" and it was about exactly that. D'Amato failed to bring down the Clintons on either front. At an event in 2003 bestowing his name upon a federal courthouse, they even played nice, with Hillary saying, "I have to confess that if a few years ago someone had in the same sentence said Al D'Amato, Hillary Clinton and courthouse, I don't think this is what we would have had in mind. But life is full of surprises."
5. The last time books could sell without the endorsement of Oprah Winfrey
Speaking of books, Oprah Winfrey's book club launched in 1996. If your book resembles a doorstop and does not include at least one scene with vampires, 1996 was likely the last time you could maybe get people to buy it without Oprah's approval. Except, of course, if your book is titled "The Gospel According to the Fix."
4. Desperately wanting a Tickle Me Elmo
Now we broaden the sphere to things that all Americans haven't done since 1996, starting with one of the darker cultural phenomenons of the past 20 years. America's weird obsession with owning a stuffed animal that made perniciously loud noises. The $30 dolls are so rare, in fact," Dan Barry wrote on Dec. 18, 1996, "that some entrepreneurs are running newspaper advertisements offering to part with one for ''$1,000 or best offer.'' The 100 top psychics in America declared Tickle Me Elmo the "communist infiltrator of the year." On Dec. 14, one man working the late-night shift at a Wal-Mart in Canada described the terrifying scene (yes, the whole world had gone mad): "I was pulled under, trampled — the crotch was yanked out of my brand-new jeans. I was kicked with a white Adidas before I became unconscious." By mid-1997, the only Tickle Me Elmo merchandise that was flying off the shelves were marijuana pipes modeled after the fad.
3. When you heard "Citizens United," you might have thought of bears.
Today, when we think of Citizens United, we think of the landmark 2010 Supreme Court case that transformed how we think of money in elections. In 1996, you may have thought about nuisance bears instead. In Michigan, a ballot measure banning most types of bear hunting earned national press because of the National Rifle Association v. animal-rights activists contours of the battle. Six other states were considering animal-protection measures, making some declare 1996 "the Year of the Animal." Lansing, Michigan-based nonprofit "Citizens United for Bears" helped get the bear-hunting measure on the ballot.
2. We were writing trend pieces about e-mail.
In 1996, "Speaker Newt Gingrich has set-up a site on the World Wide Web (http://www.house.gov), and encouraged constituents to send E-mail to individual lawmakers." How novel! AOL was the homepage of the Internet, instead of a place used only by the hipsteriest of politicians and celebrities.
1. Bill Pullman was our president. Mel Gibson was taken seriously as a director. Everyone was quoting a Tom Cruise movie.
These three details really hit home how long it's been since Hillary Clinton has driven a car.