I ended up going outdoors now that the weather’s so nice so I’m watching Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC’s Video Player page right now. Much has been made of Obama’s meteoric rise – from being unable to get a floor pass in 2000, to the keynote speaker in 2004, and now the nominee.
People forget, though, that Bill Clinton faced similar problems. When he made his big debut 20 years ago, his nominating speech for Gov. Mike Dukakis was considered a disaster – going on and on until finally he got the most applause for the words “In conclusion…” . He was smart enough to go on Johnny Carson to make fun of himself a little to contain the damage – but when he ran for President, most regarded him as a second-string candidate, who at best might be a Vice Presidential candidate. Surely this governor of a small state (LA County has a bigger population than Arkansas, as does King County Washington, and many other counties much less states!) didn’t have the experience to be President, they all said.
And yet, he beat Bush the First, and for the most part, things turned out OK. It wasn’t all perfect, to be sure, and he made mistakes, but from my experience, if one does not walk on water or turn water into wine, they are bound to make mistakes from time to time. However, bungling foreign and domestic policy the way Bush has earned him the title of Failwhale in Chief, and we’re going to pay the price for some time.
The point? Simply this – all the punditry and politicking and whatnot in the world really can’t predict what will or will not happen if a candidate is elected. People freaked at Clinton winning, but the apocalypse didn’t happen. Bush was the MBA President, and well….the rest is history.
Watching Clinton tonight reminded me of the one thing he’s always been able to do well – break down a campaign and explain what issues are at stake in an election, as he sees it, and do so in a way that’s easy to understand.
I will never forget seeing one of his last campaign speeches as President in Seattle with Blair Butterworth (veteran political strategist of the Northwest and one of the smartest people I know) and friends, and after all the bullsquat the Bush/Gore campaign was, break it all down and get people fired up one last time. You could tell all he really wanted to do is have 5 minutes one on one with W to give him the ass kicking he needed to keep his hands off the button. I’m sure he could have done it, but well….the rest is history.
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