Observations of a former president

    Just a week after democratic governor’s in New Jersey and Virginia lost their races, Bill Clinton came to Delaware to give a pep talk to the party faithful at the Jefferson-Jackson day dinner. Bill Cook covered the event, but there’s so much more to a story like this than you get in the newspaper or hear on the radio. So, Bill has blogged. Cook that is. Take a look at his notes from this night.

    Bill Cook covered Bill Clinton’s Speech at Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.  These are observation of an evening and Bill’s blog.

    5:15 I arrive at the Chase Riverfront. This is a massive room. Room is rectangular shape – like a pool table, with stage in one of the side pockets. On either side of the stage are large projection screens which read “Delaware Democrats Salute the Clinton Presidency 1993-2001”

    Let me say this, the media, myself included, couldn’t be farther away. I say hello to some familiar faces in the media who have been forced – because of security reasons – to arrive very early. We’ve got another hour and 45 minutes to kill before the program starts.

    • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

    I take my spot in the press area. We’re told to never, ever leave. So consider the following my observations from press row. In other words, from far, far away.

    Photographers joke their lenses aren’t long enough.

    I’m looking at dozens and dozens of empty tables I’m told will fill up. 45 bucks a pop. There are 15-hundred seats.

    As I chat with other reporters there are a few key questions that arise.

    Will all these seats fill up?
    How long will Clinton speak? The over-under is 23 minutes. We joke that Clinton is merely passing through Delaware and in a bit of a rush.
    Will Beau Biden – who’s slated to speak toward the end of the program – announce he’s running for his dad’s old senate seat.

    6:00 Crowd filing in. Well dressed. I should have worn a tie.

    6:15 Dinner is served. What do Democrats eat when they get together. Looks like chicken. Chicken and…. just chicken. Chicken on every plate  — wasn’t that a famous quotation from the depression? Oh, and two bottles of wine.

    Music on loudspeakers is an endless loop of ’90’s songs: U2, Blues Traveler, Counting Crows, Melissa Etheridge  — all songs from the Clinton era. Coincidence?

    6:50 I think we’re getting close. Tables are full.

    There’s also sweet potatoes. Chicken and sweet potatoes.

    Here’s an observation that’s not intended to push any buttons, merely an observation. This is by no means an official count but I would say fewer than five percent of the people in here are minorities. The three closest tables to the press area, 30 people total, all white. Where are the minorities?

    There they are, serving dinner and filling water glasses.

    Sting, circa ’93, is on the loudspeaker.

    6:57 Gov. Markell is at the mike. Standing ovation. “Are you ready for Bill Clinton?” Talks about how Democrats have been making history since last year’s dinner. Pats himself on the back for Fisker deal. I think he just made fun of Bob Gilligan.

    Markell firing up the troops.

    Markell causes a stir. Says Democrats need to send Beau Biden to Washington to fill senate seat. Is Beau aware of this? Lots of murmuring. It’s official, there’s a Beau Buzz in here. Makes me wonder if Beau has an announcement scheduled later on tonight. He’s scheduled to speak much later in the program.

    Congressional seat will go to the capable hands of John Carney, Markell tells us.

    7:07 The 42nd President of the United States takes the stage. Standing O.

    “God, I love Delaware,” he says. He did not have to refer to his notes.

    Bill is dropping names like a … like a politician. Velda Jones Potter, Karen Weldin Stewart, Matt Denn, Markell (by the way he mis-pronounces Markell — saying it like it rhymes with marble), Kaufman, Carper, Minner…

    Just told the story of how he got this gig. Says VP Biden asked him. Nuff said.

    Another mention of Beau (Is this turning into a salute to Beau Biden?). Getting more curious.

    Wow, just talked about seeing Beau backstage and how handsome he is. He’s smitten. Wondering where this is going.

    Praising Beau’s service in National Guard and as attorney general.

    Ah ha,  it’s a segue into a funny story about Clinton’s days as an AG. He’s a pro.

    Clinton’s tone changes as he talks about Veterans Day and tragedy at Ft. Hood.

    His wife is in Singapore. She was in Germany earlier in the day.

    Clinton boasting that Dems control White House and both houses of congress. Says it’s because people “hire” Democrats when “things are a mess.”

    Says people hire Republicans when they want a speech full of “candy.” Not sure what that means.

    Clinton has been giving a history lesson for the last 10 minutes or so. To sum up, since before the 1968 election until 2006, Republicans had won the “culture war.” During his political career Clinton says he fought to change that. In 2006, when Dems win big in Congress, culture changes completely in Dems favor.

    Bill is funny. Says he told Hillary election night 2006 that “If we don’t nominate a convicted felon, we’re going to win in 2008. We’re going to win the White House.” … “Even the suspicion of a felony won’t be enough to defeat us.” More laughter.

    Even though 2000 election results were bogus (Bill is bitter) Clinton actually drops serious praise on Bush, saying he ran a “brilliant” campaign in 2000 with a “compassionate conservative” slogan. Essentially Clinton with bigger tax cuts.

    Cynical journalists are officially wrong. Clinton is way past 23 minutes and going strong. He’s talking about the Civil War.

    “People hire us when we get in trouble.” I’m sensing a theme to this speech.

    Great lines. “We can’t shoot our way out of our problems,” …. and “it’s a world we can lead but not dominate.” He’s talking about America’s need to repair its global standing.

    Interesting point. Says latest election was not won on election night, but rather Sept. 15, 2008 — “the day Bush let Lehman Brothers fail. McCain didn’t have a 1-in-50 chance of winning.”

    To me that sounded like he’s taking a little credit away from Obama. Not the first time in this address.

    We’ve gone a long time without a mention of Delaware…

    We’re still talking about Bush destroying our economy.

    For example: Obama inherits “monstrous” economy that GOP ruined, then GOP slams Obama for not fixing it fast enough.

    Says there’s no right answer in Iraq and Afghanistan, but supports Obama in whatever he decides.

    Health care.


    Clean energy.

    There it is.  Biden is mentioned. Something about holding Joe Biden’s senate seat for Democrats.



    Clinton says a question he is asked a lot is “is recession over?” His answer: “yes, no and maybe.” Yes, according to the stock market. No, according to real people and businesses. I don’t understand the maybe part.

    Last 15 minutes or so has sounded like a college lecture. History/politics/economics. But very interesting.

    Job recovery.

    Just spent a big chunk of time on health care reform. He sure sounds like an authority. Bottom line — says health care reform bills are not perfect but it needs to happen. And it needs to happen now. A message that may stick with me — nurses and doctors tell Clinton they’re spending much more of their time on the phone arguing with insurance companies, and less time helping people.

    Young Democrat at table in front of me just grabbed a bottle of wine off of neighboring table. They came to party.

    Higher education.

    Again, a long, long time without a Delaware reference. Give us something, Bill. 45 bucks and, apparently for some, not enough wine.

    Global warming.

    Whoa! No way! Clinton just made a slip of the tongue that I can’t mention. Classic, I have it on tape. Ask me about it. Unbelievable!

    Delaware update: Clinton says we need a new source of jobs. Obama will get those jobs in energy and Delaware will be back to work. Clinton is fired up.

    Biden anecdote: “Ole Joe Biden and I used to fight about who was poorer.”

    He’s talking about farming in Malawi. Give Clinton credit he is NOT a lazy public speaker. He will reference Malawi to make a point. And he makes it interesting.

    Clinton brings it home. To paraphrase, people have been betting against this country for 230 years — and losing that bet. “Don’t you forget it.” Loud applause.

    Just compared politics to the making of sausage.

    8:11 Bill Clinton is done.  One hour, four minutes.

    Much later. Beau Biden does NOT have an announcement.

    WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal