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What Is Bill Clinton Like in Person?

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This question originally appeared on Quora.
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By Mark Hughes, screenwriter and Forbes blogger

I met Clinton several times (about four, I think), first as a civilian before he was president and later while working on his first presidential campaign.

The best way I can describe him to you is this: When you are talking to him, you feel like he doesn't care about anything or anybody else around but you. He makes you feel like the most important person in the room, an assessment I've heard many people make about him and it's absolutely true. He seems utterly genuinely friendly and will remember you if he's ever met you before. I am critical of many things Clinton has done and said, but I have to admit that if I'm watching him speak I will find myself nodding and often even smiling and admiring him -- however much it frustrates me when it happens, haha!

Clinton will look you in the eye and make you feel like he's confiding in you without any bulls**t; he seems so confident in what he's saying without seeming smug or seeming to KNOW he's the smartest guy you've probably ever talked to. It's as if he's telling you something you already knew or felt somehow, but that you just didn't realize you knew it or felt it. You will feel like he really does understand you, and that you really understand him.

Clinton makes you believe him, and believe in him. Even his enemies in politics, like Newt Gingrich for example, would regularly find themselves taken in by him and persuaded. Because he made them feel special, he made them feel that he understood them and cared deeply about what they felt and wanted, and he made them feel that what he wanted and what they wanted were the same thing. This last aspect of his personality is the most amazing -- he can convince you to go along with what he wants, while making you feel it was really what you wanted all along.

I was twenty two years old during the first Clinton presidential campaign. I'd never thought a politician would ever seem to truly so strongly represent what I hoped for and believed in for this country. When he won on election night and came out to give his victory speech, I was there in real life in a huge crowd. Even with my pass, I couldn't get close to the area at the front of the stage, so huge was the crowd of supporters. When he ended his speech and that damn song started to play for the millionth time, I felt more alive and hopeful than I'd ever felt about this country before or probably since, I had tears in my eyes, and a man in front of me turned and high-fived me, which turned into us grasping hands together and pumping them in joy and victory (this moment is in fact caught on camera at the end of the documentary film The War Room, which I find extremely cool). And those feelings were just from seeing him on TV or reading his speeches -- my feelings came from having met the man, previously when he wasn't running for president, and I just like him and felt he was amazingly friendly and charismatic, and later when he was a candidate who looked me and many others in the eye and told us he was running for all of us, and that his victory would be all of us winning.

What Bill Clinton is like is, when he says that to you, you believe it in your heart. It took years for me to become jaded and disappointed by many things about him, and to eventually quit the Democratic Party. But the power of his personality, of his intellect, and of his strong desire to be liked and to relate to other people is undeniable. Whatever policy concerns and anger I had about him regarding certain issues, to this day if he's speaking about issues or at an event etc, he has that same ability to make me smile and nod as he's talking, and I still feel that desire to believe in him, however frustrating it might be.

I should probably be very honest here and admit that however much I talk about complaints regarding Clinton and disappointment etc, I've also come to realize as I've gotten older and seen more in politics, that he was probably the best and most qualified president we've had in the second half of the twentieth Century, and whatever misgivings I have -- and I do have many -- I'd likely vote for him if he could run for office again, because of his ability to manage a nation better than any of the other options out there who have any remote chance of taking office. He is the most capable person to be president, particularly as conditions in this country continue to decline for so many people.

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