My Favorite Wonk

UPDATE: A shorter version of this has been posted at the Houston Chronicle’s “Texas on the Potomac” blog. Props to my pal Rick Dunham for that!

Just last year, my sister Cathy seemed to be having all of the electoral fun inbill-clinton.jpg Iowa. Little did we know that I’d get a condensed version of that in Texas! My friend Debi and I decided to go on a group date with Bill Clinton this afternoon at UT. We arrived about an hour early, just as the largely student crowd gathered before the “gates” at the Main Mall. Local Dem candidates for lower-ticket offices mingled (we had a nice chat with county judge hopeful John Lipscombe), and as the numbers grew, a team of students for Barack joined in, passing out stickers and waving stenciled posters with Barack (à la Che) overhead. At 5:30, the gates opened, setting off the hordes. Debi and I joked about it being like a Who concert and one of the students beside us said, “I LOVE the Who!” We staked out a spot not far from the stairs leading to the snakelike risers in the hopes of getting a good look at Da Man as he entered. Well, okay, but that would be quite some time. Meanwhile, I loved hearing Springsteen’s “The Rising” cranked out over the PA. I did make a mental note at the irony of Bill speaking in front of a building engraved with “Ye Shall Know the Truth and the Truth Shall Make You Free.” With just the right camera angle in the photo pool…

After endless patter, a tribal hiphop dance crew, some crazed Clintonite warming up the crowd by squawking and firing T-shirts, we were finally introduced to a celebrity traveling with the campaign. He walked out and everyone around us went, “Huh? Who’s that?” Why, Sam Gamgee, of course (a.k.a. Sean Astin), who delivered a short speech and a story about mom Patty Duke supporting the Teamsters (I didn’t quite make the total connection to Hillary, but…). By then, it was around 6:20 and the crowd had to be around 5,000 –– it was hard to tell from where we were, but there were people everywhere. Then began the Interminable Lull. My thoughts:

· Gee, Sam I mean Sean, you could have told at least two more stories about your mom.

· Secret Service count: 2 by the stairs; that might mean something.

· My favorite T-shirt has to “Hot for Hillary.”

· If I were in charge, we’d have dancers, comedians, or even more candidates to fill this dead time.

· Secret Service count: 4 (maybe we’re getting close?)

· If this is a Rock the Vote event, why has the sound on the PA suddenly been muted? Some rockin’ party this is!

· Those dancers were much more entertaining than the Texas Pom; I’d like to see them at a basketball game.

· Why didn’t I think to bring snacks?

· Secret Service count: 7 (surely we’re getting close!)

· The natives are getting restless; they must all be having low blood sugar about now.

· God, it’s 6:45! Wait, what’s that?! Could it be …

Finally!!! BILL started working the crowd as the PA kicked into “Where the Streets Have No Name” (10 points for the event planner). Somebody shouted, “Bill, you’re a FOX!” So true, he’s got something, that’s for sure. “Wait, who’s that with Bill?” I asked as they walked the risers in front of us. OMG, it’s Henry Cisneros! Sure, they both had –– ahem –– marital challenges in the past, but the two of them, right there, well, that was just a double hottie (where was the “Hot for Henry” T-shirts?). All joking aside, Henry has to be one of the biggest “what ifs” in American politics. Maybe someday…

Just as Bill took the podium at 6:53 p.m. (of course I’m going to time him! I remember the 1988 Convention!), the heckling started. He muzzled it neatly with: “It’s an honor to be heckled by people afraid to hear the truth.” The yipping stopped. Bill then launched into an explanation of Texas’ mighty peculiar Democratic primary voting system, quipping, “You’re the only people in America who can vote twice in an election without breaking the law!” He also mentioned that today was Chelsea’s 28th birthday, “the anniversary of the happiest day of my life.” He went on to stress Hillary’s being “the best change-maker I’ve ever known” and that she has the right ideas for the future. As he made the case for Hill, I thought, “He’s such a wonk. I love him.”

In a nod to Barack as he was talking about Hillary’s stance on education, he said, “Both would be better than the Bush plan: Do nothing. Hillary would get rid of No Child Left Behind.” The crowd roared. Bill waited the requisite beat. “That’s the only line in politics that always gets applause. You could drop me in Idaho with the nearest living Democrat, and the elk would applaud.”

As for Iraq and why the Iraqis need to step up as we leave, he commented, “People don’t make hard decisions until they have to.” He drew an analogy of taking in a neighbor after his house burned down. “If your neighbor’s still on the couch after five years…” That scored with the crowd. From there, he inspired utter stillness with a poignant story about Hillary visiting with a Marine who’d lost his arm. The soldier told her his body would be fine, but what he really wanted was to get his brain back after the damage of the concussive blast. “Hillary will not walk away from them.”

The master then switched gears. “As the president, you live in the best public housing. Your airplane’s so neat that they make movies about it.” But lest it go to one’s head, he said, “The president is the most fortunate hired hand on the earth.”

He finished with a beautiful story about meeting a New York firefighter who caddied for his foursome one afternoon. The firefighter pulled him aside to tell him how Hillary’s efforts to provide care for rescue workers suffering respiratory problems after 9/11 saved lives. Okay, well, maybe it was better hearing Bill tell it, but again, it hushed the crowd.

He ended by talking about Hillary’s thoughts on how she would determine she had been a successful president: if the country was better off when she left than when she started and if our children’s futures were brighter; I can’t recall the third point. Bill then asked, “Do you want the country to be better off?”

Crowd bellows, “YES!”

“Do you want your children’s future to be brighter?”


“[Third item that I can’t remember]?”


He stopped at 7:50. So yeah, he yapped for an hour. Then he popped down from the risers and started working the crowd as only Bill Clinton can. I don’t know what people five deep from the barricades were thinking, but it was full body contact and total crush. Debi snapped a close-up of Bill (see above) right before he clasped her hand! I was trapped behind her, so I didn’t get a handshake. But at least I got to see my favorite wonk. The bumper sticker I’ve been meaning to make for –– oh, eight years now is: “Put a Wonk Back in the White House.” If Hillary’s elected, we’d get TWO, and I would be quite okay with that.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building!

0 Responses to “My Favorite Wonk”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: