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story.lead_photo.caption David Wilhelm, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and the former manager of Bill Clinton’s first presidential campaign in 1992, speaks Friday at the Political Animals Club in Little Rock. The celebration of the 25th anniversary of Clinton’s victory continues today. - Photo by John Sykes Jr.

The manager of Bill Clinton's 1992 successful run for president, David Wilhelm, said Friday that he is very proud of that campaign, which he described as having just as much hope and optimism as the one that led to President Barack Obama's first election in 2008.

"I don't know quite what to say to you guys about the state of our national political life today," Wilhelm told about 170 people at the Political Animals Club meeting at Union Station in Little Rock.

"I'm embarrassed by it. I am sorry you have to live through it," he said to his sons Luke and Logan Wilhelm, Ohio State University students who were at the club's meeting.

Wilhelm said Clinton's 1992 campaign that "brought all of us together was different" and occurred before the widespread use of the Internet. It was a time when the sons and daughters of Democrats and Republicans would marry without regard for party affiliation, he said.

"But campaigns have never been for the faint of heart, and we were tough," said Wilhelm, who later served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Ohio native is now a global renewable-energy developer.

"My wish for you is that in our lifetime that things get better and that politics can regain its footing and the smidgen of civility is returned," Wilhelm said.

At one point, he paused and said, "We never had a single meeting with any representative of the Russian government."

It was an apparent reference to meetings between representatives of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 and of Russia. Trump, who defeated Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, has said there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

Wilhelm's remarks to the Political Animals Club were made the day before the celebration in Little Rock of the 25th anniversary of Bill Clinton's election. Among those celebrating will be Bill and Hillary Clinton and veterans of the 1992 campaign. Bill Clinton is an Arkansas native who is a former governor and state attorney general.

Skip Rutherford, dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service, told the group that "it was during that campaign that I saw [Wilhelm's] grace under pressure time and time again.

"David called everybody 'chief' or you were a 'great American,' particularly if you came in and told him good news or the latest poll result," said Rutherford. "But in fairness, as you all know, that campaign was like a roller coaster.

"Every ship needs a captain and in 1992 for Bill Clinton, David Wilhelm was that captain: humble, thoughtful, principled, funny, effective, smart, strategic and hard-working," he said. "Without him, there would be no 25-year reunion."

Wilhelm said Little Rock was home for him and his wife for a year and a half, and Rutherford served as "my official guide to Arkansas politics, culture and history."

He said he is very proud of the 1992 campaign "not just because we won, but because we won for a reason.

"After three consecutive losses at the presidential level [by Democrats], new ideas were needed. A broad coalition was needed. Fresh faces were needed. We needed a party that could appeal to moderates, to Southerners [and] to working-class whites without abandoning the Democratic base," Wilhelm said. Clinton in 1992 defeated President George H.W. Bush, who had also served as President Ronald Reagan's vice president from 1981 to 1989.

"After a decade of trickle-down economics, it was time for a new theory of how economies grow," he said.

The campaign ran ads in New Hampshire with a toll-free number to get a copy of Clinton's plans and put out a book called Putting People First, Wilhelm said.

"We never stopped competing in rural America, never," he said. "We worked hard for the votes for working-class people. We woke up every day wondering how we could win one more white working-class vote. ... We wanted people to know that the very same message that spoke to suburban whites, or exurban whites or rural whites also spoke to inner-city blacks."

The 1992 campaign tried to appeal to the best of people, pull them together, and offer hope and fight for the people who couldn't always fight for themselves, Wilhelm said.

"It was a rocky ride, but it was a ride of a lifetime," he said.

Wilhelm said there might be something for today's Democrats to learn from Clinton's 1992 campaign.

"It may be time to travel back to 1992 to get a taste of what the political future may require," with a focus on working-class economics, competing for votes of struggling families in both small and large towns, and an understanding that doesn't contradict the party's commitment to civil rights, he said.

Metro on 11/18/2017

Print Headline: Clinton ramrod proud of '92 work; Campaign chief notes civility sag

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  • skeptic1
    November 18, 2017 at 8:48 a.m.

    Yeah he did a great job destroying the lives of women that came forward about Clinton's sexual assaults and harassment. Clinton is a sexual predator and Wilhelm was his enabler along with Hillary. Anyone that was involved in keeping his "bimbo eruptions" in check should be scorned not celebrated.

  • hurricane46
    November 18, 2017 at 11:32 a.m.

    Your right skeptic, and your boy in the WH is the same thing, a predator, and a crook.

  • rubythecat96gmailcom
    November 18, 2017 at 2:48 p.m.

    Sir, you backed a former Arkansas attorney general, governor who transported cocaine into our fair state was a drug addict while sexually assaulting young women. and laundering drug money. and while president sold off our technology to China for a lot of illegal campaign money. and paid North Korea billion of US tax payer money not to build nuclear weapons. ha ha. and lets not forget how he shamed our state and country with his cigar and Monica in the oval office and then lied about it. the thought of his family nauseates me. I am hoping one day our country can wash off the stink of the Clintons.

  • hurricane46
    November 18, 2017 at 3:19 p.m.

    Stay off the pipe and turn off Fox News ruby.

  • TimberTopper
    November 18, 2017 at 3:48 p.m.

    Ruby, you got proof? If so, I'm sure law enforcement would like to have it. Otherwise, you are just another liar, like Trump! You haters are sure a jealous ignorant bunch!

  • wildblueyonder
    November 18, 2017 at 4:14 p.m.

    Haters? You libs are number one in that category.

  • hogan44
    November 18, 2017 at 5:01 p.m.

    Rudy has it exactly right. Bill & Hill are like a cancer that keeps coming back. Those who enabled him like Skip Rutherford and this Wilhelm guy, if they had any class or upbringing, would hide instead of speaking out of their support of this pair. I feel certain, those who are still drinking that liberal "cool-aid" watch that one-sided dribble on CNN, CBS & NBC. They just keep lapping it up and living that life of ignorance.

  • HM2
    November 18, 2017 at 9:01 p.m.

    timber topper, what more proof do you need? He admitted it (finally) and how about the stains on the infamous blue dress? Oh by the way, she lost get over it.

  • TimberTopper
    November 19, 2017 at 6:04 a.m.

    HM2, she was out to do what she did, otherwise the dress would have already been to the cleaners. Foe every action in life there is a reason, just as there is a reaction.