Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bill Clinton Speaks In Baker City

Bill Clinton arrived in Baker City at about noon Sunday May 11, 2008. He looked fit and energetic. Baker County Democrats Chair Marilyn Dudeck, Vice-chair Chuck Butcher, and long time Democratic wheel and enthusiastic Clinton supporter Peggi Timm had a meet and greet with the ex-President before the event. Bill spoke from the steps of the Baker County Courthouse after being introduced by County Commission Chair Fred Warner (D). He was accompanied by a CA Congressman from the LA area, whose name escapes me - sorry, you can't take notes in front of a crowd during a speaking engagement, Bill's right hand is on his arm. Fred is directly in front
of Bill in the top photo.

In the second photo with Bill speaking, Fred is on the left side, Peggi is holding the Hillary sign, I am next, Marilyn Dudeck and her son, with Fred Warner's family sitting below. I am wearing my "I am a Grassroots Democrat" pin and my Gun Owner Caucus/Democratic Party of Oregon ball cap, propagandizing don't you know. Those granite slabs aren't comfortable.

Bill was presented with a large framed picture of Baker City back dropped by the Elkhorn Mts. It is an odd experience to shake hands and say hello to a man who has been the most powerful man in the world and still is a mover and shaker of huge dimensions. I am well acquainted with some powerful people and have spent some time around famous people, but this was still an odd experience. He is a politician of surpassing ability, in person and as a speaker, whatever your politics you have to admire Bill Clinton in that regard.

Obviously he was in Baker City to advance Hillary's campaign and his speech was aimed in that direction, touting her accomplishments and abilities while attacking the BushCo administration. He did do some compare and contrast with Barack Obama, but it was done with a very light hand. I am not sure this quote is verbatim, "of course my family and I will do everything possible to ensure a Democratic victory in the fall," it is surely very close and captures the exact spirit if the wording is slightly inaccurate. A recurring theme in his speech was that places like Baker City (and W VA) "need a President" which was refined a bit at the last to "need a President who cares." I am pretty sure the earlier references were slight slips of the tongue.

Bill made very sure that the BushCo record on deficit, wage gains, job creation, and education was front and foremost, and blasted it on Iraq - with a bit of a defense of Hillary's vote, "that vote was to allow force to ensure the inspectors were let back in." The record isn't going to support that one, Bill. He noted that studies show that the kids in the audience today will mostly live to 100 years and while they may not be impressed with it now, awhile later they'll be really happy about it, providing their later years aren't compromised by Alzheimers or the outcome of early onset diabetes, ailments were do not know the causes of nor cures for - research is of the utmost importance. He asked for a show of hands of those without health insurance, a large number of them went up, he pointed out that no high income nation in the world would have one hand go up, and that they pay 50% of our costs for that. He also stated that no matter what outcome there was in trade agreements, that with our health costs we cannot compete. His opinion was that Hillary's plan is superior to Barack's. Since I don't think either is worth spit I'm not going to debate it.

Measured against the conduct of the campaign until now this was a very measured speech in competitive terms. He makes the case that Hillary is better positioned to win, that W VA and KY will give her the lead in popular vote and that the media has been unfair and that calls for her withdrawal are signs of weakness. These arguments weren't the cornerstone of the speech, they were nearly asides. I am not a Clinton supporter in this Primary and I listened carefully and watched body language as closely as someone behind a speaker can, this was a partisan speech, but it was carefully measured. The audience was enthusiastic to the Democratic message, considerably less so to the partisan pieces. There were numerous Hillary supporters in the crowd, but I'd make no judgements regarding BC voter enthusiasms from that crowd.

There were several factors at work, this stop was scheduled and announced too late to make our Friday newspaper and we have no Saturday edition. It was on some of the Portland news, I imagine it was on the Boise news and someone told me they heard something on the radio here. Portland is 350 miles from here and Boise is 150 miles, so neither is a great local news outlet. All this potentially reduced the crowd size - which I refuse to try to estimate beyond it was hundreds of people. Our ballots have been in our hands since Monday. Whatever Party someone belongs to this was significant happening in Baker City, we're just not on many important people's maps.

I am, frankly, surprised that I was a part of the meet and greet. I haven't been real low key in my lack of admiration for the Clintons as Democrats, I am an adamant 2nd Amendment supporter, and I have on occasion used pretty strong terms to describe powerful figures. There are more important local figures who weren't included, the people on the steps were the extent of it and the Secret Service was out in force and not amenable to additions. I probably was close enough to various aspects to know more than they'd be happy about and recognizing that means I know enough to keep my mouth tightly shut, for the sake of their mission and that in itself is enough reason for them to keep a tight rein on how many available slots there were.

I can only speak to this particular event, but I would say that it was notable in its politeness and conduct in broader terms than just Hillary vs Barack. I won't speculate to motives for that or what it portends; this speech has all sorts of special conditions involved versus the rest of the nation. I apologize that this isn't better journalism from such a close perspective, conditions just weren't conducive to it.


jsg said...

This is great Chuck, thanks for writing it up.

"I am, frankly, surprised that I was a part of the meet and greet."

One of the differences between Ds and Rs is you can disagree, you can even strongly disagree, and no one will label you a threat or force you to stand in the "Free Speech" pen ten miles from the action.

Chuck Butcher said...

Well, JSG I certainly agree with you on that, but a meet and greet of 6 people and Bill is a bit different. This kind of thing is closely controled vs a handshake line.

Michael said...

Thanks for reporting on this - as someone who grew up in Baker, this is pretty funny.

The Clinton campaign has clearly moved beyond desperate, into the "We're just going to do everything we can to try and save any political capital we have left" mode...

My mom just told me this weekend that even my Republican uncle in Idaho has decided to vote for Obama in the fall.

I was a Kucinich supporter - and I've worked hard for the Obama campaign - I think we can all agree that having two families controlling the white house for over 30 years isn't democracy, it's aristocracy.