Back in the Monica Lewinsky day, a significant divide developed among Democratic women advocates: those who couldn't forgive President Clinton for behavior that embarrassed Hillary Clinton beyond telling, and those (like me), who said "we've got bigger fish to fry here, and let's keep our eyes on the prize -- that being a president who cares about making women's lives more livable."
After listening to Bill Clinton's brilliant speech this week, I'm even more convinced that my back-in-the-day view of Bill Clinton was the right one. Not to go too far down the bad-analogy path, but he's the only one left. Think about it: Did you hear the word "poverty" uttered by anyone else? ( "The ragged edges of the middle class" isn't the same thing, nor is "America's working families." Sorry.) Did you hear, also with unmatched conviction and repeatedly, the (everlastingly good) idea that "poor people" should be able to become "middle class" people in any other speech, belying the fatuously prevalent notion at the DNC that everyone who isn't in the 1 percent is "middle class." And did you hear anyone else talk about the about the importance of Medicaid? Something that (only) helps poor people.
So, my fish are fried. I'm "fired up and ready to go," as President Obama used to say.
In the light of this great day for us social justice advocates, something else came to mind as I reflected on Bill Clinton's presence this week: His comeback (forget New Hampshire, his comeback in the whole wide world) and just how instructive it is for women candidates now vying for office.
It really isn't just any old comeback we're talking about here: This one is turning the "seven deadly sins" into positives! Apparently, accomplishing this feat is so rare there isn't even an exact opposite word of to "sin" -- at least in the dictionary I consulted. Anyway: Whatever you might call this turnaround, I sure can't think of anyone else who comes remotely close to doing it like Bill Clinton has.
For those who need a refresher, here's the list of those sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. And here's what Bill Clinton has converted them to:
• lust for a more just America;
• gluttony for the punishment of the presidential campaign trail, to benefit a former enemy no less;
• greed for tax dollars to help poor people;
• sloth about the need (not) to help those who can help themselves;
• wrath about the injustice of today's public policies;
• envy for "a more perfect union"; and
• pride in what he can do to help others.
Okay, I know I stretch a bit here. But I stretch to make a really important point, Ms. Candidate: Whatever your religion -- or even if you don't have one -- and whatever your sins (and face it, you've got them; we all do), you, too, can convert them to the benefit of others. Just follow Bill Clinton's lead.
However, you can't just wave a magic wand to make this happen. (There are no magicians in politics, no matter what those high-priced political consultants tell you they are.) No, there's a protocol. Again, Bill Clinton lays it out.
Bill Clinton was present, called, and accounted-for and at the convention because he:
• Has grit almost beyond measure. He travels all over, constantly; he memorizes dozens of arcane facts, so we can understand their significance; he writes his remarks so well that he can riff on them substantively as well as rhetorically.
• Is disciplined. You can't get from there to here, much less a heartfelt hug (and bow!) from Barack Obama, without sticking with the program daily. He's even now a vegan, and we all can imagine how much discipline that takes!
• Is on it, whatever it is, 24-7. You need me here; I'm here; you need me there; I'm there. You need me every day between now and Novmeber 6; no problem; I'm here and there.
• Knows that policy matters. Rhetoric will make you sit up, take notice and listen, but policy is what actually helps people. So, he knows it and figures out how to explain it, so we know, too, just how much it matters.
• Cares unstintingly about those less fortunate and, more to the point, why that's strategic, not (only) charitable.
• And my two favorites: He know that you should never be so embarrassed by your bad behavior that you don't go out in public and do what needs doing (that's one's duty) and that even the most egregious behavior should (and will) be forgiven if you really do care about doing what needs doing -- for others.
That great divide in feeling about Bill Clinton developed because some women felt that his "disrespecting" his wife was not just unforgiveable but unredeemable. But, as we've all learned the really hard way since then, the women of America need every advocate willing to step up and step out on our behalf, even if that advocate (she as well as he) needs a little redemption every once in a while. Let's remember this and Bill Clinton's lesoons now that the campaign season is really getting going.
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