Bill Clinton is Like Super Glue

I know I'm belated. By now, everyone and their political consultant has blogged about Thursday night's Clinton appearance. So I'm late. Big deal. Clinton was late, too.

Clinton’s tardiness, unlike my own, I’m sure, was worth waiting for. He’s the kind of speaker people come out in the middle of the night—bundled in coats from their trunks, huddled in an airplane hangar for two-plus hours, and waiting for their big and little toes to go numb—to see. When his plane landed and taxied up to the crowd, the insentience in my toes no longer mattered. When the plane door opened and the crowd, pressed like flowers in an unabridged dictionary, turned to watch him emerge from the orange glow of the cabin, my lower extremities were resurrected—along with my faith in democracy.

Clinton wasn't a perfect president—hell, it's hard to think of someone who was—but compared to the aberration that is the current administration, he was Saint Clinton, Sir Clinton, a pillar of moral and economic fortitude. He was a good president, and today, he reminds me of what this country could be.

Where are we now? Most of the world hates us. There are more terrorists plotting our ultimate demise than there were before 9/11 and the war. We’re in a massive, unimaginable, trillion-dollar debt. Poverty rates are rising. The middle class is shrinking. The uninsured are multiplying. Our government is spying on us. Our leaders condone torture.

Maybe it’s because of the festering state of this nation that I felt relieved to see Bill Clinton—that I shouted for him like a groupie when he finally stepped off that plane. He’s not perfect—the country wasn’t perfect under his watch—but the state of this nation was infinitely healthier. And there’s something about his cadence, his eloquent gestures, his practiced pace, the memory of his terms, that makes me feel safe. As if through his mere presence, the country will somehow be restored; he’ll mend all the broken pieces, like super glue.

Of course, that’s crazy talk. Bill Clinton can’t save America—but Thursday night, in a small way, he tried. He saddled up to that airplane hangar to rally for Patricia Madrid, for a Democratic House, for a desperately needed change in the cogs of our country.

It’s not really about Patricia Madrid—she seemed an inarticulate toddler on the same stage as the real Big Bill. It’s about the message of her campaign—inciting change. And Patricia Madrid will do just fine.

Clinton left us with some haunting quotes. They were delivered with his classic twist of humor, but their moral was powerful. Here’s my favorite part of his speech from Thursday night, compliments of my tape recorder:

“As far as I can tell, here’s the [Republican Party’s] campaign this year: First of all, they’re telling you why our candidates aren’t fit to serve—they’re just a bunch of slugs, running for office on the way to meet the devil. Right? That’s what they do all the time.

“Then here’s their message, as near as I can tell; it goes something like this, all over America: ‘OK, we messed up. I mean, this Iraq thing didn’t work out like we said. And we’ve got all our military assets tied up there so nobody else is scared of us and we don’t have enough troops in Afghanistan, so the people that really burned us on 9/11—the Al-Qaeda and their Taliban supporters—are making inroads in Afghanistan again against a genuinely moderate Muslim democracy that’s pro-Western. And we never finished the job there. And we probably shouldn’t have put that guy running the horse show association in charge of FEMA right before … (applause). We probably let that Abramoff fellow have too much federal money. Mr. Rove only knew him casually, even though our records show he had 485 contacts with the White House; but, you gotta understand, Karl is a shy man—you have to meet him 486 times before he really knows you. With college costs going through the roof, it probably wasn’t such a hot idea to give a millionaire like Bill Clinton five tax cuts and cut back on college aid and make college loans more expensive and get rid of a program for after-school kids and stop giving police to the cities.

“‘You know, we got a lot of problems. But you still have to vote for us. ’Cause if you vote for those Democrats they will tax you into the poorhouse. And while you’re one the way there you’ll meet a terrorist on every street corner. And when you try to run away from the terrorists, you will fail because you’ll trip over an illegal immigrant.’

“What I want to tell you is, we are better than that—the Democrats, all of us. They say the choice is ‘stay the course’ or ‘cut and run.’ Well, we’re not for ‘cut and run,’ but there is something to be said for ‘stop and think.’”