Concord, NH -
The sun shone brilliantly through an incredibly blue sky in Concord Sunday afternoon, the perfect setting for a fall kickoff event. Temperatures were comfortably warm, and the podium, draped by the trees on the statehouse lawn on either side, was regally juxtaposed with a big granite gateway arch directly behind. Such was the stage set for Sylvia Larson, President of the NH State Senate, to introduce the most famous denizens of the 2007 campaign trail, Hillary and Bill Clinton. Or is it Bill and Hillary Clinton?
What better than perfect weather and scene for an afternoon with the closest to perfect political craftsmen of this election cycle, the Clinton team. The uber-couple walked down a long corridor adorned with hundreds of adoring fans. Hillary was wearing a turquoise skirt suit, and Bill a pair of white pants with a light red and white checkered shirt, hair matching the pants to a tee. On stage together, one of the things that strikes me more than anything else is the choreography.
The Clintons, dating back to Clinton/Gore ’92, have perfected the diagonal-double-wave as well as the arm-around-the-shoulder-and-point-to-something-cute-in-the crowd. You know the ones, where Hillary stands in front of Bill at the same angle, and their arms shoot up in the exact same direction, both elbows crooked at 120 degrees on the nose. Same with Bill slightly hunched over, head close to Hill’s as they smile, laugh and point to a silly sign in the crowd. Today it worked for the “Utah Democrats”, a vacationing couple from just outside Provo, among others.
Bill took the stage and let loose with a mixture of reminiscing and warnings for the future. He told the crowd how grateful he was for New Hampshire, who gave him a chance back in that winter of 1992. He talked about the importance of this year’s election, and how both the world and the nation would turn overnight if we elect Hillary, citing her popularity with unnamed world leaders and New York Republican voters. He closed with a story of a golf caddy who physically restrained him as he walked off the putting green to tell him that he was a NYFD captain, and that Hillary Clinton possessed unique and remarkable judgment in her assessment of the need for environmental protection for firefighters on September 11th.
But if you break it all down, it comes to this: He is the original outsider, to Barack Obama’s version today. Bill Clinton is the spousal lapdog to Elizabeth Edwards’ attack dog. He is personable yet tough, and like husband, like wife. Furthermore, Hillary is the electable one, media be damned. Hillary is the wizened one, in direct contrast to her top competitors. Real fire fighters like Hillary despite the IAFF’s endorsement of Dodd. Hillary is actually the best leader to come out of 9/11, not Giuliani. If you listen to Bill’s intro, you are already thinking of the campaign themes that the Clintons want. Bill Clinton, master framer.
Thusly did Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and current Senator from New York, take the stage. Whereas Bill said that he liked all the candidates, Hillary said, “it does make a difference who we elect.”
During the 90’s, she mentioned, we didn’t have widespread insecurity in our households on things like health care and the economy, but now we have it again. She pointed out the women in charge in New Hampshire, Sylvia Larsen, Senate President, and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.
Referring to the females she said, “we’ve seen change in New Hampshire.”
“Are you ready for change in America?”
Changes in health care. Changes in schools. Changes Presidential and administration competence.
Last of all, change in Iraq.
“If you are ready for that, I am ready to lead.”
Clinton then reminded us of that popular adage from this Democratic primary cycle, that we need to set big goals. Dream big dreams. Hillary’s plan for achieving this goal comes from four major stances.
Restore leadership in the world
Re-build the middle class
Reclaim the future for our children.
Retread the tires on a Clinton White House. (just kidding!)
“It is up to leadership to make change our friend.” Because the current leadership, like Garth Algar, fears change. We know this.
Change was one of the many aspects of her rivals campaign messages she co-opted. Moments later she mentioned that she couldn’t wait to say “America’s Back” to the rest of the world, as soon as she was elected and even before she became President. She accompanied this with an interesting idea to send American dignitaries abroad, and to encourage Americans to travel and spread the good news. After all, we would be back.
But don’t forget she also has experience! To highlight this fact, the Clinton campaign ripped off, almost verbatim, Bill Richardon’s latest debate money line, “Change and experience, with me you get both.”
Having established herself as the candidate of both “change + experience”, as the campaign signs posted everywhere said, Clinton touched on how should would restore, rebuild, reform and reclaim. She closed her policy refrains with a story of the Messi tribe in Africa, and how when they see each other walking around the trail they don’t ask, “how are you?” They ask, “how are the children?”
Just like last time in Nashua, Clinton is working to define herself as not only the candidate of change + experience, but also of toughness and maternity.
Maternity established, she shifted toward the tough talk. Clinton commented that the Bush administration has “had their way” with America. I admit, it was the first time I had heard a sexual assault analogy used for a Presidential Administration. I liked it.
She then moved on to subtly jab her party-mate opponents, differentiating herself from Obama and Edwards by saying that she was best skilled to be the one to roll up her sleeves for the painstaking process of getting 60 votes in the Senate. She mocked John Edwards’ crusade against the rigged system by saying, next time someone tells you that we can’t win against the lobbyists, tell them “yes we can!”
Clinton closed with stories only she can tell, about little girls seeing her on the stage and hearing their mothers point and say, “see you can be whatever you want to be when you grow up.” Stories of elderly women who say, “when I was born, women didn’t even have the right to vote, and I want to live to see one elected president.”
And once again, “if you’re ready for change, I’m ready to lead.”
After the event I hightailed it over to the Seacoast, where the Clintons were scheduled to have another, larger event later that evening. I spent some time in a coffee shop in Portsmouth checking up on the internet news before zipping over to Dover in order to mix up the day with Bill Richardson, after which I came back to the cobbled streets and twinkling sea light reflections of Portsmouth. It turns out I couldn’t escape the former first family. Despite Richardson’s carrying on and a fifteen minute drive, the Clinton event was just finishing up as I walked into Market Square.
Crowds of people still stood on the bleachers trying to catch a glimpse of the Clintons. Hordes still lined up along the barrier fence for an autograph or a handshake. The same happened in Concord earlier, but with the intoxicating smell of the ocean hanging in the air, and the flood lights illuminating the night air, this scene truly showed the rock star status of the candidate and her gentleman escort. If a Mainer had come down over the bridge and been told that the Stones were in town, he would do well to believe it, especially for the crowd in front of Bill, a good four times larger than the one in front of his wife. The Clintons have star power, the kind that isn’t easily outshone.
Well we all just wanna be big rockstars
And live in Hilltop houses driving fifteen cars
The girls come easy and the drugs come cheap
We'll all stay skinny 'cause we just won't eat
And we'll hang out in the coolest bars
in the VIP with the movie stars
Every good gold digger's
Gonna wind up there
Every Playboy bunny
With her bleach blond hair
And we'll hide out in the private rooms
With the latest dictionary of
today's who's who
They'll get you anything
with that evil smile