A friend sent me an email on Monday letting me know that former President Bill Clinton was going to be in Stockton, CA campaigning for Congressional candidate, Jerry McNerney that evening. Jerry is running against incumbent Richard Pombo, another Dick, who is one of the most corrupt members of congress. He's bad for the environment and his entire platform and legislative history shows us every reason that this good old boy rancher should be sent back to his old job. When George Bush came to town a few weeks back to campaign for him, no one batted an eye wondering about that team; no one questioned their relationship, Pombo & Bush- they deserve each other, but we don't!
I quickly did a bit of research and found that yes, indeedy, Bill Clinton, #42 President of the good old USA, the Man from Hope, AR was coming to town to bring us progressive types an idea, a feeling that there might be some hope for this country afterall.
I immediately called my friend Gold Star friend, Nadia, Patrick's mom, and told her to call the McNerney campaign office and tell them that we wanted to meet Bill; yes, actually talk to him. Nadia lives in McNerney's district and has done some campaigning for them, so everyone on the staff knows her well. In my naivete I believed that would be able to meet with Bill Clinton. While I have worked on several political campaigns and have plenty of media experience, I guess I really didn't know what I was thinking! Even after we had been at the event for an hour or so, I was still hopeful. But as the rain continued falling along with the temperatures, I decided that the best we could hope for was to be standing in the front row, and that was okay, especially since we were standing in the front row, not more than 10 feet from the speakers platform. We had a great vantage point for this event.
The BIG DEMOCRATIC machine rolled into Stockton Monday evening with 24 hours to prepare for this campaign stop. The warm up acts were Democratic candidates for Lt Governor, John Garamendi; Secretary of State, Deborah Bowen (she's my hero in her firm stand on electronic voting among other issues), Insurance commissioner, Cruz "I lost 70 pounds" Bustamante and a few state level Democratic officials. The headliners were Jerry McNerney & Bill himself. Jerry McNerney knew the spotlight was on him as he introduced the former president to this welcoming crowd.
Bill had started his morning in Memphis, TN, campaigning for Harold Ford, headed to Colorado to campaign for Ed Perlmutter, into San Francisco for a fundraiser that netted over $2 million dollars! They left San Francisco and took a quick jet ride to Stockton Jet Center for this event.
Before I get started and get accused of god knows what as I wax eloquent about Bill Clinton, let's just have some of that full disclosure. William Jefferson Clinton was not the perfect president; he made mistakes, and he admitted them. Mostly our lives were different back in those days late in the 20th century. Different and better. Hope not fear.
Bill's speech tonite was crisp and funny and intelligent and smart and hopeful and honest and compassionate and everything that George Bush is not and will never be. George Bush can not hope to be the man that Bill Clinton is and perhaps that is demonstrated in George's feelings of inadequacy.
He opened with "Thank you for waiting," Clinton said to the roaring crowd. "It may be raining tonight, but the sun will be shining on Tuesday." He covered a lot of territory as he spoke about the war; Clinton took special umbrage at how Bush derisively refers to Democrats as "the party of cut and run." "We're not the cut-and-run crowd, we're the stop-and-think crowd," he said. "We're only too happy to fight, but we want to stop and think first." and the environment, but mostly about the differences between the two parties; although he somehow managed to do that in a positive, not divisive way. He told stories and he told jokes. He was convincing that our country can get back on track to be the county; that we can do better. There was no mention of Kerry's unfortunate gaffe, no 3 word slogans tonite. There was hope and promise for change. In my mind there was nostalgia for a different, more positive time in this country.
As these campaign stops and schedules go, I am sure that Clinton was scheduled to speak for 10 or 15 minutes, but he had barely hit his stride by then and he ended up speaking for more than 40 minutes. Clinton did not disappoint this crowd estimated at 1000.
As Clinton entered the speaking area he shook hands with many in the crowd. At the end of his speech he jumped off the stage to come down to be with the people again; it is what feeds him. Because Nadia & I were front and center, I felt that we would at least get to shake his hand. He did shake our hands and when I told him that we were mothers whose sons were killed in Iraq, he just stopped and we became the most important people in his world for the next 5 minutes. He gave us a genuine hug and someone nearby told me afterwards that he noticed Clinton tearing up. He read Patrick's name on Nadia's button that she wears. I showed him Ken's photo. I told him that we were there to meet a president of our country who really cares about our kids. He told us he was sorry for our loss. His security people seemed to be impatient that he spent this much time with us, but Clinton's time with us showed us where his priorities were. This was a private conversation between 2 moms and a concerned, compassionate former president. (photo courtesy of Jim Choi)
After he hugged us again and moved on to greet the rest of the crowd, people asked us if they could ask what we were talking about and did we know him personally. We explained why we came to the rally and they responded with empathy. Some people nearby had overheard the entire conversation and were also impressed that he had spent that much time with us.
I ask again, what did we do to deserve Bush and his gang in the White House? We can do better by voting for a change on Tuesday. We must do better!
Laura Bush is scheduled to campaign for Pombo later this week. My message to Laura- your husband is not welcome in California and neither are you. Just stay home.