Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Hillary & Bill Clinton at the Fairgrounds

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 566

Hype, defined as "extravagant or excessive publicity," is an integral part of any political event worth the name. And there was no shortage of hype leading up to last night's public debut of Bill Clinton campaigning at his wife's side.

But it is no small thing to be present at history in the making, and that is what this was, hype or no hype. A former president campaigning on behalf of his wife's presidential bid? Nothing like it ever before in American history.

The event was held in front of the Agriculture building at the State Fairgrounds, and was attended by an estimated 7,000 people. Show time was listed as 7:30; I got there a little before 6:30, and found at least 1,000 people there ahead of me. Still, after some scouting around, I found a spot about 10 feet from the flatbed trailer that served as the stage and settled in to wait. I always enjoy listening to the conversations taking place around me at these things, and I heard a lot more uncommitted talk around me than I expected.

There's been lots of mainstream media coverage of this event, of course, and much of it has been centered on how Bill Clinton appears to react to campaigning for Hillary. But what I haven't seen mentioned that struck me quite forcibly last night, is the impact on Hillary of having Bill campaigning with her. Yes, having him introducing her and appearing with her on stage is meant to illuminate her middle-class background, her commitment to public service, and all the rest. But more than any of those things, and in ways that I think cannot be mere affectation, being on stage with her husband softens Hillary Clinton and humanizes her in exactly the way the media has been saying she needs. Whether this is as a result of drawing charm from Bill Clinton by osmosis, or the halo effect of campaigning with a former president, or being buoyed by the energy imparted to a crowd anywhere Bill Clinton appears is a question that lots of people will be discussing as the campaign goes on. For myself, however, having been there and seen it first hand, I believe this softening is simply the by-product of Hillary campaigning with the one person who, for all their well-publicized marital travails, knows her to her soul, and in whose judgment and opinion she has absolute confidence.

I'll refer you to the mainstream media links below for details about Hillary's speech and the other aspects of the event. But I did shoot some video of the goings-on, so have a look and form your own opinion.

Des Moines Register

New York Times

Washington Post

Los Angeles Times

British Broadcasting Corporation


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