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Mike Smith

Mike Smith

Posted March 7, 2009 | 02:47 PM (EST)

Let's Have a (Democratic) Party


Virginia Dems Hear from President Clinton

By Mike Smith

Former President Bill Clinton came to Richmond to call on democrats, in a state that had gone blue for the first time in four decades, to focus on "how" we will get out of our nation's financial debacles. "How" will the economic stimulus package be implemented. How can we engage the Republican Party.

At the Virginia Democrats annual "Jefferson-Jackson" dinner (or the "JJ", as it has become known), former President Clinton, freshman Senator Mark Warner, "senior" Senator Jim Webb, and Gov. Tim Kaine, newly installed as chairman of the national Democratic Party, promised bi-partisanship. The four seemed to forge a power rock band on-stage. There were some wonderful riffs. And the party faithful rocked-on, lighting up cell phones to get a picture of this moment.

I worked on Clinton's transition briefly in 1992-93. I was among the first Washington public affairs directors during the '92 Campaign to recognize then-Governor Clinton's speaking and exceptional campaign skills. While serving as PA Director with the National Association of Manufacturers, I invited President Clinton to a breakfast and fundraiser during his primary. He worked the largely conservative crowd. My goal was to work on transition and I got the gig.

I worked for Vernon Jordan in Communications and Scheduling. I spent three months on the transition team. Also did some correspondence work for First Lady Hillary Clinton and Melanne Verveer. I met the president several times at the Oval Office and in the field after transition.

Here are my "tweets" from the JJ Dinner about one month ago!

1. "We Have Won the Great Culture War"- says Bill Clinton.
2. America is now a kaleidoscope. Obama reps indonesia and africa. Muslim and Christian
3. Close landfills- biofuels or biomass feed for energy. We dems have incredible oppty
4. How to drive jobs- push for energy independence says Bill Clinton. We get half all oil from dictators or mideast sources
5. Clinton seems like Teddy Kennedy now- lion but with less mane- statesman!
6. "Republicans have done themselves in"- "wish them well" says President Clinton
7. Community of US- got a better worldview. Help each other. Dem base now larger than Republican base (consummate politician - he knows the numbers)
8. Dems elected when other party "messes up and we gotta fix it" says Bill Clinton
9. "Political culture change" gives dems a "natural majority now." Clinton knows the chess games - voter segments
10. "Seamless web of American history" he calls Obama election

There is a wonderful "senior stateman" role here and Bill Clinton's Foundation has proven he has more work to do. His Katrina relief with President George HW Bush, his Africa Work, and now thinking about solving world imbalances for hunger and poverty prove his leadership.

What Democrats need to also consider is this - nobody does political calculus better than Bill Clinton, the politician. We lose his institutional memory at our own peril. He came to Virginia early in the campaign to tell the party leadership to "hold that Commonwealth" (my words) in the blue column.