The plane descends through a haze of afternoon heat and humidity, the Arkansas River appearing as a lazy brown ribbon running through fields of green. There, flanking its southern banks, lies the City of Clinton, also known as Little Rock.
Once the plane touches down at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport, it’s a short drive downtown to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, the primary feature of which is the William J. Clinton Library and Museum.
Here, you can stroll into the Clinton Presidential Park and across the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge. Or you can walk west onto President Clinton Avenue, taking you through the city’s hip River Market district.
But we have not come to see the highs and lows of home-state monuments to the 42nd president of the United States, though there are plenty more to consider.
As thunderstorms break the heat on this Friday evening in July, we’re here because he has accessorized the ring finger on his left hand with a band of gold that has bound him, in so many complicated and historic ways, to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic nominee to be the 45th president of these United States.
We’re here to see, striding onto the dais for a Democratic fundraiser at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, the potential first first gentleman in American history.
William J. Clinton is regal in a blue suit — two-button, herringbone-stripe — white shirt and power-red tie with a matching red H (for Hillary) lapel pin. Both suit buttons are fastened, perhaps signifying the formality of the evening. (Twelve days later, when he wears much the same outfit to the Democratic National Convention, he will button only one, perhaps signifying the more intimate nature of that speech.)
The silver hair is impeccable. The voice, a bit hoarse. Like many ex-pat Southerners, his native twang (“yes-ter-daaay”) has returned now that he’s back home.
The prospect of Mr. & Mrs. presidential portraits was raised eight years ago when she ran but failed to get out of the primaries — and his angry, Wild Bill outbursts were at least partly blamed. Now, should she lose again, it is almost certainly the Clintons’ last national election after three and a half decades in public life.
So with the family legacy on the line, with it all down to win-or-go-home, let’s see how the Supportive Campaign Spouse is holding up this time around.
He’s easy and relaxed on stage, name-checking friends in the audience — “Davie, you remember this?”— and seeking to motivate the base in a state that is now solidly held by Republicans.
He touts Hillary: “The Republican head of the Farm Bureau on Long Island endorsed her for reelection. … And he’s still for her in 2016 … because he knew she’s the real deal!” He jabs Trump: “Anybody that spends all their time trying to keep you mad at somebody else is not really your friend.” He recites an anecdote/joke on Texas, always popular here, that ends with the punch line, “If they can suck as hard as they blow … they’ll have all the water they need!”
The crowd of 2,000 eats it up. They’ve donated a collective $500,000 for this night with their former governor, the man from Hope. As the rain pummels the roof, they have him all to themselves. The media platform is near empty. A couple of newspapers, some local television. Exactly two national news organizations applied for accreditation.
For the Hillary Clinton campaign, this is perfect.
Particularly after his 2008 performance, the job of this potential first first gentleman is pretty much the same of any traditional first lady: Do good deeds, raise some cash and don’t get in front of the candidate. Bill Clinton, who famously loves to talk, has made more than 400 appearances at fundraisers, rallies, shopping malls and so forth in support of his wife’s campaign in the past eight months — but has not given a sit-down interview since last fall.
And yet … he has already flubbed it.
He made negative front-page news by meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on an airport tarmac as the FBI was finalizing its investigation into his wife’s email accounts while she was secretary of state.
“Bill Clinton has made a mess,”wrote Dan Balz, The Post’s senior political correspondent.
Heading into the homestretch, it seems obvious that even if he makes no further mistakes, even if he gives brilliant tactical advice, promotes inspiring programs for the working class and offers soaring rhetoric about the Great Promise of America, he is still going to be pilloried by opponents as being morally unfit to return to the White House.
He allegedly cheated on his wife, repeatedly, even in the Oval Office, and with a young woman who wasn’t that much older than their daughter. He was impeached by the House of Representatives. Used the Lincoln Bedroom as a fundraising package. Said, “I did not have sex with that woman.” Said, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
Fortunately for Team Clinton, there is Team Trump.
America’s alternative first spouse is Melania Trump. Her website had said she has a college degree (she has also testified in court that she has one), but journalists who have examined her academic record report they could not verify it.
In her one and only campaign speech, she plagiarized Michelle Obama. Also, the third wife of the Republican nominee once posed nude for the cover of British GQ. The headline: “NAKED SUPERMODEL SPECIAL!”
In the battle of spouses, it is Bill “blue dress” Clinton vs. Melania “no dress” Trump. Vote your conscience, America.
SOURCE: Neely Tucker
The Washington Post