Clinton's Bridge: 2010 | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Clinton's Bridge: 2010

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 1:54 PM

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Former President Bill Clinton promised renovation of the former Rock Island railroad bridge by his library would begin in 2010. He told a crowd of 1,000 gathered in a tent on the grounds of his library for the center's fifth anniversay -- as he'd told us in an interview last week -- that it would be a dramatic design that would make it a symbol for the area. (Here's a link to some poor quality video by me that mentions design.)

Lacking: Details on financing. Or make that: Money is still lacking.

Jordan Johnson, spokesman for the Clinton Foundation, said afterward that firm commitments are still lacking for the roughly $10.5 million in costs, despite an award of $30,000 yesterday by the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission to "fill a gap" in funding.

Roughly, about $7.5 million is committed from the city ($1 million); state ($2.5 million); foundation ($4 million). Johnson said he hoped there'd be news "soon" on decisions from other private funding sources to pay the rest. (I got the numbers wrong on this originally, because Johnson added some private money not yet in hand.)

I'm drawing a conclusion that nearly firm commitments are in place for the full amount so that construction can begin. But that is an assumption. And five years have passed without construction progress, though there has been work on design.

Gerard Matthews will have more on the speech shortly. It was classic Clinton -- brimful of ideas on current and future politics with an exhortation to change the way our institutions have done business, particularly in health care and climate control measures.

He was joking -- preparatory to making a point -- when he began one tangent with a mythical move to repeal the 22nd Amendment to run for a third term as president. Those applauding the line were not joking, I'm pretty certain.

FROM GERARD MATTHEWS

Clinton gave an impassioned speech, charming the audience every step of the way.  The former president occasionally wandered off on what seemed like unrelated tangents, only to come back again and again to his main point: institutions need to change with the times in order to further the purpose for which they were created. 

"I want you to think about this health care thing and this energy thing and whether that's so," Clinton said.  He then talked about the difference in what the U.S. spends on health care every year (16 percent of income) compared with other wealthy nations.  Switzerland is next at 11 percent, Canada spends roughly 10 percent. 

"The average difference in what we spend and our wealthiest competitors is a little over six percent of our income. You take six and a half percent out of the $14 trillion [spent every year], and that’s about $900 billion per year." 

That's when Clinton joked about getting rid of the 22nd amendment. 

"So, here’s my platform, if you elect me president one more time, the first thing I’m going to do is put a 900 billion dollar tax on you. I know you can’t hardly imagine what 900 billion dollars looks like so I’m going to have the government print the money, all 900 billion in cold cash. I’m going to scroll it out over the entire Capitol Mall. And we’re going to have a ceremony, where I will have a motorized staircase and I will motor myself from one end of it to the other sprinkling kerosene on it and when I get to the end of it I’m going to set it on fire and let you watch it burn. Vote for me."

"If you don’t want anything done about health care that’s your position. That is what you are advocating."

"I’m not advocating for any specific thing. I don’t want to get into the details. But as citizens, we’ve got to be in the change business when our institutions no longer further the purpose for which they were established."

The crowd cheered.  It was a pitch-perfect example of Clinton at his best, making the audience understand exactly what he's talking about, creating a message and selling it.  Clinton then moved on to energy, pointing out there are over 90 countries in the world more energy efficient than the United States. 

Clinton said that by changing the way we finance retrofitting all of our buildings and homes, the United States could create millions of jobs while becoming more energy-efficient.  

The former president ended on a hopeful note and spoke about his hopes for the library's legacy.

"The legacy of this library is this: the American people can always be forever young as long as they’re not afraid to do what the times demand."

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