What Has Motivated the Clintons All This Time?

Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech worthy of a JFK or an MLK last night at the Democratic Convention. I can’t remember ever having heard a better political speech, certainly not in real time.

News commentators are speculating about what Bill will say tonight. They think the Dem power-brokers are nervous. Gee. Maybe they should be.

I just wish they’d stop treating Bill like some kind of turd-in-the-punchbowl. He’s paid his dues! We learn by our mistakes, so clearly he’s had a stellar education. Historically, he deserves to rest on his laurels if he damn pleases.

People should listen to this man. He’s been the proverbial Leader of the Free World–and now he can’t get credit for being an elder statesman in his own party. He’s being treated more like The Old Man than like An Elder Statesman, it seems to me. You may argue that he’s nothing more than a charismatic salesman, but come on! What was Ronald Reagan? How much more vapid can you get? Hasn’t “Bedtime for Bonzo” become emblematic of politicians who are all form and no substance?

Watching the frequent shots of him by the PBS film crew last night during the speech, I had a distinct impression that Bill was, among other things, reveling in the notion of something that he and Hill had been co-creating for as long as they’d known each other and were watching it reach one of the milestones on the way to the summit of their dreams.

To hear some pundits (and not a few snarky hack bloggers) describe it, you’d think that people had just now discovered that the Clintons had come up with some kind of Machiavellian conspiracy. Were these people not alive in 1991?

(Hmmm… Considering the demographics of snarky hack bloggers, maybe they weren’t…)

The Clintons never, it seemed to me, put a lot of effort into hiding the fact that they had every intention of establishing themselves as a power couple. People were saying during the WJClinton administration that they had every appearance of doing of the high-roller version of I’ll-get-you-through-college-then-you-get-me-through-college. I didn’t even pay much attention to politics, outside of identity politics concerning my homosexuality, and I knew what they were up to. You didn’t have to be that clever to see what different forms “canoodling” took for this pair. They never said they weren’t wheeler-dealers. And they needn’t have apologized for it: politics is politics, after all. You do what has to be done.

Still, for as ambitious and expansive and brash as Bill has appeared all along, I couldn’t help wondering if perhaps the wheeling and dealing he’d been doing might have been far more magnanimous than anybody had ever given him credit for—or, if it wasn’t always, if it hasn’t become so.

Had he been in it just for the power all along—the proverbial guy-gets-his-rocks-off-then-turns-over-and-goes-to-sleep-and-has-to-be-reminded-that-he’s-not-the-only-person-in-the-bed routine—stumping for Hillary as an afterthought because she was nagging him that she wanted some power action, too?

Or had he gotten himself into the White House early because he knew he’d be able to get the toehold quicker and could be more help to her with that history than she could be to him with a history as a Senator?

As I watched him smiling from his balcony, I flashed on a scene of him down on his hands and knees so she could step on his back for a big enough boost to be able to climb over a wall. More surprisingly, I flashed on an echo of the words of John the Baptist in the Christian gospel: “She must increase; I must decrease.”

Could it be possible that Bill Clinton saw—either saw all along, or at least sees now—that the greatest part of his legacy might lie not in having served as President, but in having contributed his political capital to the cause of seating the US’s first woman President?

Call me romantic, but I would believe it without question if some mind-reader were to tell me that Bill’s thoughts from that balcony in fact were that Hillary was a better, more qualified, more noble person for the job of President than he himself had been.


When I began this entry, Bill hadn’t yet spoken at the convention. He has done so now. Hillary has released her delegates, and from what I can glean from the blogs, an overwhelming number of them have voted for 0bama to receive the nomination. Hillary’s 2008 run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nod is over.

Bill said everything in his speech that anybody could have wanted Hillary to have said last night: he said that 0bama was qualified to serve as President and he said that 0bama had his full support.

It was the speech that, as an Elder Statesman and as one of only two human beings who had the credentials to do so, he had to give as such a party figurehead. (I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Jimmy Carter in visuals of the convention or in any of the blogs that I’ve viewed.) He should have reprised his from-the-hip speech about fairy tales, but this was an affair of state, and this was the speech to give under such circumstances. Maybe he even believed everything he said–his words rang true enough that a case could be made for the proposition that he did–but if he didn’t, I’m not inclined to hold it against him. I, for one, consider it a far more grave sin to lie about 0bama’s fitness for the presidency than to have lied about not having had sex with that woman.

As a responder to a PUMA blog said, Hillary is free now: she doesn’t owe anybody anything, and neither does Bill, at least not until an Elder Statesman of his stature is needed.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is far, far deeper into debt to Hillary Rodham Clinton than it was a year ago at this time, and that’s saying a lot: they owed her big time for the shit they were too cowardly to defend her from during the impeachment proceedings, and they will never, ever be able to get square with her now for her having fallen on her sword for their self-congratulatory little game. Their only hope is for her to forgive them, as she forgave Bill. The Democratic Party doesn’t deserve her. And I think Bill knows it, too.

"Artists are here to disturb the peace." —James Baldwin. Please lesave a comment!

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