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EXCLUSIVE: Bill Clinton in Eugene, Oregon

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BILL CLINTON spoke last night at the University of Oregon in Eugene in behalf of his wife's candidacy, and of course, your trusty citizen journalist Nezua was on the scene.

The speech was attended by about 800 - 1000 people. I didn't count, but the venue was switched at the last moment from a ballroom at the EMU that had a capacity of 700, I believe, to an outside courtyard which wasn't quite full. I asked Hillary's press liaison what necessitated the change, and she told me that there were more people in line than would fit in the rather small ballroom. The switch was after the security sweep was done and everyone's credentials checked and everything locked down. Because of the last minute move, the lighting and sound and security went from controlled and having a feeling of being well-organized to an "on-the-fly" and very thrown together situation, in some ways quite lacking. But nothing that prevented us from doing our jobs.






Once outside, we scrambled to get everything in place again, run cables, plug in, test sound and prepare once more. Unfortunately, the new sound feed (like with HRC's last appearance) had an annoying hum in it. This time I opted not to use the power and run on batteries. This kept the hum out of the line. Clinton chose not to stand in the small area the organizers had lit, and instead walked in the shadows most of the time. The quality of the video image suffered as a result.






While in the invitational email, the speech was billed as a "Bring A Ballot" event, most people did no such thing, and nobody seemed to know what to do with the ballots that were brought. I know of two people there who asked the volunteers what they should do with theirs and were not given any kind of answer.





They were asked to sign the sheet stating their promise to vote for Hillary and check the checkbox which gave the Clinton campaign permission to use their info. Some were hesitant to do so, and asked if they "had to." The volunteer replied to "fill out what you are comfortable with." So it seems that the entire "bring a ballot" idea was lost somewhere along the line. Perhaps not enough people brought them, or the details of planning and follow-through proved too much for the volunteer staff. I didn't find time to ask a staffer about this.






Bill Clinton was introduced as "one of the most popular, dynamic, and intelligent presidents this country has ever seen," who wanted to "talk about someone whom he believes will be an even better president."

Early in his speech, Bill Clinton claimed that most of the Clinton campaign has been funded by small donors.

"It's been an utterly amazing election. Record numbers of people voting. Record numbers of people working. Record numbers of people giving money over the Internet. All kinds of ways. Small, mostly small donors."

-Bill Clinton, May 12, 2008, Eugene, Oregon


While Clinton went on to illuminate this by way of an anecdote of an 11 year old boy who sold his bike and all his belongings in order to contribute $422 to the Clinton campaign, the general statement proves hard to corroborate, and in fact, most sources have it the other way around.

During January, Obama outraised Clinton by more than 2-1, bringing in a staggering $32 million in contributions to $13.5 million for Clinton and expanding his donor base to more than 650,000 contributors, according to aides to both candidates. Unlike the Clinton campaign, which depends heavily on wealthy contributors who have already reached the $2,300 legal maximum they can give to a candidate, Obama relies more on small-dollar donors who can keep giving.

-Source







Beginning with a unifying tone, he began by claiming that no matter what, the Democratic party will unite soon behind a nominee, and all will be well.

And I want to begin by saying, as we come to the end, it's profoundly important-more important than anything else-to change the direction of this country. So I can say for my candidate, and our family, whatever happens, we are going to unite the Democratic party for victory in November."

-Bill Clinton, May 12, 2008, Eugene Oregon


The crowd loudly cheered at hearing this. Clinton then went on to posit that in order for this to happen, the delegates in Florida and Michigan should be seated. In explaining his thinking, he offered a line reminiscent of the times Hillary has praised the Republicans as she has sought to capture the Democratic party's nomination for Presidential candidate.

Kendrick Meek, a 40 year old African American Congressman from Miami [...] knows that the Democrats are blameless in Florida's decision to have an early primary, and yet we basically gutted them. The Republicans, who did it, were treated quite differently. Because the Republicans like to win elections. So they did what their rules provide. And what our rules also provide, they said, 'Okay...you went ahead of time so we're going to seat you at half-delegates and seat all your super delegates. That's what any political party with any sense would do."

-Bill Clinton, Eugene, Oregon May 12, 2008


It struck this reporter's ear as curious. The Republicans 'like to win elections'? Was Mr. Clinton admitting that Democrats do not? Was he gingerly propping up the meme that Democrats are losers?

Mr. Clinton then talked about how the political landscape has changed and how young people now have "massive power" and are "wired into" all the things happening in the world. Surprisingly, he told this crowd of young people (mostly college students) that he gets most of his news from the Internet.


I have to tell you that even at my advanced age, I have now got most of my political news from the Internet, because if there's bias, at least people admit it up front and I get more facts than I do from a lot of the stuff that I see in the mainstream media. [Loud cheers] I like that!"

-Bill Clinton, May 12, 2008, Eugene Oregon


Clinton then went on to say "On the other hand" and spoke of the "unstable" global environment we live in and "all the conflict" therein, "our differences that we somehow think are more important than our common humanity," and "the threats of cross-border problems, whether its terrorism, chemical nuclear biological materials, or human trafficking in slaves and organized crime or narco trafficking." He summed up the thought by saying "the porous borders make us interdependent in negative as well as positive ways. "






The crowd behind this anchor was composed entirely of campaign volunteers, present before any of the attendees had yet arrived.

At one point when Clinton spoke of what the next president would have to do, he was met with a loud wave of "ooooOOOOOOOO!", a sound I recently heard mouthed by the large crowd present at the Obama rally, also held at the U of O (though in a larger setting).

This was the second time the Clintons have visited Eugene and were met with push back from Obama supporters that I have witnessed. Bill Clinton noticed too, and with just a touch of temper, pointed out that the students were " entitled to their opinion," but noted how it is never Obama who gets heckled, and only Hillary's rallies. He posed it as a curiosity, but the answer seems self-evident. It would be hard to heckle a person in a tight knit crowd of eight or nine thousand people who are roaring approval for that same person. Or at least hard to hear them.

His admonition did not quiet the students, and he eventually dismissed them by saying "whatever makes you feel good, go on."

The former president sounded very tired. He came to Eugene after speaking in Corvallis, Oregon, and his voice was roughened and raspy. The odd part was that it sounded like he was trying to keep a grip on dentures. Does BIll Clinton have dentures? If not, there was definitely something going on with his mouth. To tell you the truth, I've heard others speak whose lips and tongue were numbed, and this is exactly how his speech sounded. Again, you can judge for yourself when the video is finished.

He did admit how hard Oregon's mail-in ballot system was on a candidate.

Oregon is the poster child for the idea that the states are laboratories of Democracy. You do everything differently here. You know, I'm just telling you...the mail-in campaign is great for you, but it is playing havoc with people who have to campaign in more than one state."

-Bill Clinton, May 12, 2008, Eugene Oregon


The crowd laughed appreciatively.




Bill Clinton stressed Hillary's health care plan, her desire to get rid of the Bush's No Child Left Behind Campaign, as well as her interest in helping Oregon gain support and funding so that the state can utilize the very windy coast for energy. He pointed out that there are no windmills scooping up that wind power because the state does not have the means to bring that power to the main power grid. He said Hillary had a plan to fix this.

He told a few soft-touch stories that are the regular grist of these types of events. Few of them felt believable to this reporter. But I have to admit, to me these stories always sound that way despite who is telling them.

At one point he made his voice low and brought up 9/11 which was an odd moment. The idea felt strangely out of place in the midst of a number of topics which Oregonians no doubt can feel at home with, such as sports, logging, and living a "green" life. The story was that firemen in NYC who were Republicans came to dearly love Hillary in post 9/11 days because she was the first to push for their health benefits while Bush did not.






Again, Bill Clinton claimed he was against the Iraq war from the start. He did not, however, go so far as to say he "opposed" it, this time.

Nobody should want Iraq to fail. [Full pause] Even if you...thought it was a mistake to do in the first place, which I did."

-Bill Clinton, May 12, 2008, Eugene Oregon


Before the invasion, Mr. Clinton did not precisely declare that he opposed the war. A week before military action began, however, he did say that he preferred to give weapons inspections more time and that an invasion was not necessary to topple Saddam Hussein.

At the same time, he also spoke supportively about the 2002 Senate resolution that authorized military action against Iraq.

-NY Times


Overall, Bill Clinton came across as a devoted and thoughtful advocate for his wife's candidacy. He said a few things that amused me, such as the line that he has been in 90 countries and "walked the streets of Harlem." (He then added "as well as most of the country.") Also, his pattern of underlining many points by stating aloud "this is very important" or "this is a very big deal" made me smile to myself. I understood his concern and the ire that barely peeked out as more than once he protectively asserted his economic legacy, which he clearly felt was being questioned. ("I didn't hear any interruptions that time" he said, as he once again reminded us how much better things were in his Presidency.) Some lines or argument (a couple I've detailed above) were a bit confusing, as well as his habit of randomly numbering most things he said, or offering at least ten "First of alls". But the (relatively) small crowd that listened to him speak was quite enthusiastic. Although not all were actual Hillary supporters, and a few claimed to be there "just to hear Bill Clinton speak."

For some reason, I can't imagine the former president would be terribly upset to hear that.

Crossposted to The Unapologetic Mexican and Culture Kitchen.

 

Nezua is an author and illustrator by trade, a rebel at heart, and a fugitive from the iron claw of ennui. You can find more of his writing at http://www.theunapologeticmexican.org , his videos at http://think.mtv.com/profile/Nezua , (more...)
 

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