[Editor's note: Former President Bill Clinton came to Toledo yesterday and spoke at the Toledo Technology Academy. My son Spencer attended. Below, edited only slightly, are his notes. All paternal bias aside, I think he has a great future in political reportage and analysis.]
Bill Clinton is a very charismatic speaker.
Rather than playing the role of “attack dog,” as he had been portrayed by the MSM, Clinton took on a positive, message-based role. He began with nostalgia: “Remember peace? Remember prosperity? Remember the 90s? Remember when I was president? We can have that again. Hillary Clinton is Bill Clinton Approved.”
Clinton then spoke on the wave of the future. “Here is how we can save the country from the recession that has already affected the Rust Belt. Alternative energy and green industry. Implementing this will bring new jobs, from blue collar to clerical to midlevel and high management to corporate leadership. It will create a healthier planet and energy independence. It will make us safer, as we won’t have to associate with Saudi Arabia (didn’t name names). The way to implement this is through technical vocational schools and technologically up-to-date, cutting edge education for all our students. The Toledo Technology Academy is a fine example of this. The candidate who understands this and has a plan to get this done is Hillary Clinton."
This was no professional, New Democratic “party of new industry professionals, social moderates and economic conservatives.” This was a real meat-and-potatoes “I’m Sticking With the Union!” kind of rally. Many organized labor representatives were there, referred to organized labor as “The Salt of the Earth.” Out with NAFTA, in with a message of new manufacturing jobs, new frontiers of blue-collar workers in green industries to be unionized. Feel was very working class, almost movie style working class.
Not an Edwards populist, though. No “them” to fight against specifically, but said it was “responsibility of top 1% to pay their taxes, so she will repeal that tax cut.” Did not talk about corporate greed, culture of corruption, Enrons, etc.
Clinton made a point of only mentioning Obama twice: once when referring to campaigning for other Democrats in his ex-Presidency, “including a rising Illinois State Senator named Barack Obama,” and once when talking about how he liked the election because it was bringing out the interest in politics, and spoke to how he like how Obama was getting young people’s interest, saying “that’s great.”
Hillary Clinton’s slogan is “Solutions for America.” This suggests that she has not just ideas and pipe dreams of change, but real plans. Bill said that hope and desire for change is not enough: one needs to have concrete plans and proven results, which Hillary clearly has. He said that “even if she was not my wife, I would still vote for Hillary because of the vision and solutions she will bring to America.” This gives a one-two punch of “She’s the right woman for the job, hands down,” and “I stand by my woman.”
"What do you mean when you talk about being in danger of a recession? Last time I checked in the working-class, true grit cities of Toledo, Flint, Detroit, Youngstown, Cleveland, and other, we’ve been running a recession going on 4-6 years." Clinton didn’t specify exactly why, didn’t refer to free trade or protectionism, but said that many of the jobs Hillary’s green industry/energy investments would create would require physical, on-the-ground ops. “Last time I checked, to examine every public building in the country and figure out how to make them energy efficient, you gotta have a guy here on the roof.” Translation: these jobs won’t all be outsourced. "
Afghanistan is the real War on Terror. Hillary has earned respect of military families, as she is fighting to bring the boys home as soon as she can from Iraq." He quoted Marine Commandant saying he couldn’t beef up forces in Afghanistan without decreasing in Iraq. Did not mention Hillary or Obama’s positions on starting/ending the Iraq War.
Had a Utica-based Representative speak, who described speaking with an upstate New York farmer who told the Representative that he did good and might one day be able to be as close to the people as their great senator Hillary Clinton, who had never forgotten working-class, small-town, middle-American upstate New York. Said that this had earned her respect, and she won 40 of the 60 NY counties that had voted for Bush in the 2004 election. Clinton spoke of the admiration Republicans gave her for her legitimacy, her genuine concern for the country.
“Government’s job is to do something to help people and the country” or something like that. A commonly recurred-upon theme, the opposite of “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” It backtracks somewhat on the New Democratic “The Era of Big Government is over” theme, probably to suit her Union audience. Unions want nothing to do with deregulation and corporate experiments on the economy, and have no problem with government, big or small, telling them so.
I think he said something about the honor the campaign brought out and the honesty and goodness of all the candidates in the race, and their common desire to better the country (probably a shoutout to fellow Democrat Obama, fellow Arkansan Huckabee, and fellow “3rd way, middle of the road” (or at least portrayed that way) McCain. Like Obama, an attempt to make it a national unity message, not a partisan primary message. Creates an inevitability argument without the obnoxious way Hillary did it before. Now, it takes a leaf from Obama’s book, letting her sound presidential without having to talk issues. This lets her impress as many people as possible without them having to know much about politics or seem like just a person to have a beer with.
I would have a beer with Bubba. He was smooth, relaxed, and informal, but not as loose as he is sometimes portrayed. He seemed friendly, but focused on the task at hand, as if to say “I would be a good ole boy hillbilly Bubba now, but we’re in a recession and you’re losing the jobs you’ve worked hard at, so we need to roll up our sleeves and get down to business. Nevertheless, we’ll get it done, despite the adversity, and the beers afterward are on me.”
Strength: Toned down the angry-Bill image in favor of that of an experienced communicator speaking his mind on behalf of his candidate and wife, Hillary Clinton.
Weakness: Presented a cure-all in green industry/alternative energy. Furthermore, having the Clintons tie it to their agenda makes it seem like an industrial arm of the left. For green industry to take off, it must appeal to more than just the 50% that is Blue America. People must see it as the legitimate wave of the future it is, not just some sort of crackpot liberal plot to get money for a front industry while sticking it to valuable bastions of conservative business support like the oil industry.