Favorite

Worth it 

My most recent one-to-one conversation with Hillary Clinton took place in October 1991, and I've been laughing at myself ever since.

It was an epochal day in Arkansas life. Only that morning, the Arkansas Gazette — the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi, and one of the best — had ceased publication. Many friends had lost their livelihoods.

We ran into the Clintons at a barbecue outside War Memorial Stadium before the last Arkansas-Texas football game in the Southwest Conference. For Razorback fans, i.e. almost everybody, that, too, was unsettling. Hating Texas on game day was an indispensable part of being an Arkansan. Would anything be the same again?

Days before, Governor Clinton had announced his presidential candidacy and set off on a ludicrous "listening tour" of the state seeking voters' permission. He'd promised to serve out his term, but President Bush no longer looked invulnerable. Calculations had changed.

Breaking the GOP hold on the South could change everything.

My wife, Diane, had been an aide to our host, former governor and then-Sen. David Pryor — a loyal Democrat but no Clintonite. An Arkansas patriot, she gave the big lug a hug and said, "Go for it!" I turned to Hillary, and, just to be a smart aleck, asked "Have y'all lost your minds? You'll never have a private life again."

See, in my sexist way, I'd simply assumed that the woman was the saner of the two Clintons, and was in thrall to Bill's mad ambition. That's certainly true at our house. I was writing a book, but had never covered Arkansas politics. I'd have called the Clintons friendly acquaintances, no more.

I teased Hillary about her well-known role brown-nosing a notoriously erratic, but influential local columnist for the victorious Arkansas Democrat. She was known to phone him regularly for advice.

"The problem," I remember her saying, "is that there's just no end to it. You've got to feed his ego every single day."

We had a spirited talk about the vagaries of the press. Our mutual assumption was that the national media would be different.

And so it turned out to be — except worse, infinitely worse.

See, in a small state like Arkansas the press can be held accountable. In New York and Washington, not so much. Once reporters and pundits become celebrities in their own right, and there's serious money to be made peddling bogus scandals and conspiracy theories, all bets are off.

And this was before the internet.

Fast forward 25 years to last week's election-eve rally in Philadelphia. By now, I'd long understood that Hillary Clinton's ambition might actually exceed her husband's — if only because she's anything but a natural campaigner. She has to grit her teeth every time. I read something recently about her attending more than 400 fundraisers during her presidential campaign. Four hundred!

(I believe I'd draw the line at four. So I guess I'll never be president.)

But joking aside, I've been saying privately for months that if Hillary lost, I was going to be angry with her for running at all. As I've written, she'd be a fine president if she could be appointed. She's a tough cookie with a brilliant mind and spine of steel. Nobody better in a tight spot.

However, watching her take the podium in Philly after Bruce Springsteen and a characteristically eloquent President Obama was a worrying reminder that she has little stage presence and distinctly limited oratorical skills.

Along with a tin ear. "Basket of deplorables" has to be the worst clunker in presidential campaign history. If you're going insult half the population, why not be witty about it?

"The American people," H.L. Mencken wrote, "constitute the most timorous, sniveling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goose-steppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages."

Sure it's a little wordy, but it conveys the same thought.

Also, as I wrote some months ago, "accepting preposterous fees to speak to Wall Street bankers and then keeping the contents secret is no way to run for president." Did what it's tempting to call Hillary's moral vanity prevent her from grasping how that would look to ordinary wage earners?

It sure looked that way.

(Diane doesn't agree with my writing these things. When they worked together on the Arkansas Children's Hospital board, Hillary was kind and solicitous during a prolonged medical crisis involving our son, earning her lifelong gratitude.)

Even so, I believe Hillary's analysis is correct. No FBI interference in the election, no President Trump. Alas, however, it's a TV show. Too many people think they'd prefer watching Trump. Sure, he's a moral cripple, an ignoramus and an epic liar, but he can be entertaining.

I do hope she comes to think it was all worth it.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • GOP contempt

    Sometimes it's hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news — largely ignored by national print and broadcast media — that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfires.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
    • Dec 14, 2017
  • Cats and dogs

    I've always been leery of people who dislike animals. To my wife and me, a house without dog hair in the corners and a cat perched on the windowsill is as barren as a highway rest stop. We're down to three dogs and two cats, the smallest menagerie we've had for years.
    • Dec 7, 2017
  • GOP contempt

    Sometimes it's hard to be cynical enough about the current course of American politics. Astonishing, yet not at all surprising. That was my immediate reaction to the news — largely ignored by national print and broadcast media — that the Trump administration refused to ask Congress for one thin dime of disaster funding in the wake of Northern California's devastating wildfires.
    • Nov 30, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • A difference

    How low can a columnist go? On evidence, nowhere near as low as the president of the United States. I'd intended to highlight certain ironies in the career of U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). The self-anointed moral arbiter of the Senate began her career as a tobacco company lawyer — that is, somebody ill-suited to demand absolute purity of anybody, much less Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).
  • Gratitude

    Now, more than ever, I find myself thankful for those who resist. Those who remind us of our higher common values. The fact-checkers and truth-tellers. Those who build bridges in communities instead of walls to segregate. The ones who stand up and speak out against injustice.
  • Money talks

    Democratic candidates face a dilemma in Arkansas. To take on the GOP members who are firmly entrenched in the state Legislature and Congress, they will need lots of money and lots of votes. The easiest way to get more votes is to spend more money. Obscene amounts of money. And thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and President Trump's judicial appointments, this will be our reality for a long time. The six Republicans who make up our congressional delegation have stopped pretending to care about their constituents. They vote in line with the interests of big corporations and lobbyists. They know what side their bread is buttered on.
  • Silly acts, good law

    It was unavoidable that the struggle by sexual minorities to gain the equal treatment that the Constitution promises them would devolve into silliness and that the majestic courts of the land would have to get their dignity sullied in order to resolve the issues.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Cats and dogs

    • I miss my wolves. It has been over five years since the last of my…

    • on December 12, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation