In Little Rock on Saturday to celebrate the 25th reunion of the 1992 presidential campaign, the Clintons told a wealth of important truth, cheered by 3,000 in a state that now overwhelmingly rejects and widely detests them as tellers of non-truth.
Bill and Hillary can do both, you know--tell a few blatant untruths over time and yet tell authoritative truth in a singularly reflective and insightful conversation on a November weekend in Arkansas.
The authoritative truth is that America is fine except for its stupid and ever-descending politics.
Hillary couldn't help sounding bitter in her recitation of truths giving her a right to be.
Seated beside her husband at the Statehouse Convention Center in downtown Little Rock as James Carville moderated, she lamented and/or deplored an FBI director who helped beat her in the presidential race last year, and the Russians who "weaponized" false information against her, and Fox News partisans who threaten to make our politics "into a fiction," and a president--without calling the name, Donald Trump--who surely hasn't much time to do real work "between tweeting and golfing" and obsessing on her.
A sore loser's sour grapes, I could hear people saying. Sounds like she's the obsessing one, I could hear them adding.
But it's true that the then-FBI director sent her reeling 10 days before last November's general election with unfair public innuendo; that we're learning more about how the Russians manipulated that election; that facts are now presented in alternative forms according to what one's prejudices prefer; that she is not a murderer and never ran a child-trafficking ring out of a pizzeria, though many believe otherwise because of Internet absurdity and their own willing gullibility; and that Trump--perhaps blessedly--spends a lot of time tweeting and golfing that he otherwise could devote to imperiling the country for real.
Bill, always defter, could sound on Saturday afternoon as eventually optimistic as ever.
In that 1992 campaign, he said, he put out a booklet detailing his specific proposals, as did his chief Democratic primary rival, Paul Tsongas. Between them, he said, they got 60 percent of the primary vote.
"It was a time when people understood we were being hired to do a job and it made a difference if you knew anything," the former president said to the delight of the audience that assumed a shot at Trump.
Today, the former president said, the United States remains better-positioned for the future--economically and demographically--than any other nation on earth.
"The only thing getting in our way," he said, "is our stupid politics."
What's stupid, he said, is that genome research shows that all of us are 99.5 percent identical; yet, in American politics, we obsess on that 0.05 percent of variance, on differences by race or gender or ethnicity or religion or economic condition or mere opinion, to keep us from tapping into our overwhelming sameness to "blow through this mess."
So, why is it that these two are so widely rejected or even detested?
It's because she's heavy-handed and he's slick and shop-worn. It's because he lied, and she went with it. It's because they've gotten rich off politics.
It's because they invite fatigue in everyone except their adoring cultists and the legions who draw their political lifeblood from hating them.
None of that had anything to do with whether they were telling authoritative truth Saturday. You could have become weary of them as early as the late 1980s and yet beheld the command and importance of what they had to say on this occasion.
He was a two-term president, and, except for sex and perjury and dubious pardoning, a good and successful one who steered the country through prosperity at home and stability and influence abroad.
She got more votes for president than any other white person ever. She got nearly 3 million more votes than the man who beat her in the Electoral College last year.
The only person ever to get more votes for president was the black man who did it twice.
The decibel-level of the hatred of the Clintons has always exceeded the hatred's breadth and real relevance. These are legitimate world leaders. Their public conversation's general purpose of self-celebration shouldn't discredit the specific value of where they've been and what they've seen and what they know.
None of that changes the fact that Arkansas Democrats need to put the Clintons behind and begin a new generation with new ideas and new messages, which may, in fact, be happening.
The Clintons' truth bears heeding for the very reason that it makes a compelling case for pivoting to a new era, better than the downwardly spiraling one that entangled and engulfed them and embittered at least one of them.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 11/21/2017
Print Headline: Truth and the Clintons