by Max Brantley
Former President Bill Clinton did attend the party for his 1977-92 Arkansas staffers at the library's Cox Center Saturday night. I wish I'd had a camera rolling for his extended commentary on the 2008 election; Hillary's choice as Barack Obama's secretary of state, and his praise for Gov. Mike Beebe's understanding of the need for new directions in energy.
(I didn't bring up coal burning. But Ken Smith, director of Audubon Arkansas, told me later that Clinton had mentioned the promise of alternatives to coal-burning power plants at yesterday's press conference about cooperation between Clinton's Climate Initiative and the state of Arkansas. Smith said Beebe, sitting next to Clinton, looked a touch uncomfortable at that point.)
Clinton seemed utterly sanguine about releasing Clinton Foundation financial records as a condition of Hillary's appointment. He said he'll remain influential in his Global Initiative project and he said he'll still be able to raise funds -- $15 million is his goal -- to save lives through his AIDS initiative.
John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin? Nothing but a way to gain favor among the Republican base, which showed little to no enthusiasm for McCain until he chose Palin, Clinton said. The net effect of that energy boost, however, proved damaging overall to the McCain campaign. He needed a vice president who offered aid on the financial issue that became the critical element of the 2008 vote. McCain should have picked Mitt Romney as a running mate, as George Bush advised McCain to do, according to Clinton's account.
Clinton was upbeat, too, about the early decisions of the Obama era, not the least because so many Clinton hands are on board.
Does Clinton stay in touch with Arkansas? Sounds like it. He quoted approvingly from Steve Barnes' column Friday in Arkansas newspapers. He commented, too, on the state of the Arkansas budget, which he said sounded more stable than those in many other states, based on Beebe's remarks to him.
ON ANOTHER SUBJECT: Hottest buzz at the party -- apart from Library director Bobby Robert's scolding of me for my column about the Aloft Hotel project he opposes (he promises a point by point refutation for print) -- was all about a coming industrial announcement in North Little Rock at the former Rank Video plant. But mum's the word on details. 500 jobs or more -- good paying ones -- for "vehicle" assembly (though vehicles could be anything from cars to four-wheelers to jet skis). The company apparently has sufficient financial means not to be encumbered by current market shortages of ready financing. News may break by the end of the year.
AND ALSO: A Jonesboro reader said he believes, based on dinner table talk, that the additional wind industry facility mentioned by Gov. Beebe Saturday may be coming to Jonesboro, maybe 1,000 more jobs from a couple of facilities.
PPS: An old media type chides me for failing to produce a video report of Clinton. I admit it. I had my Flip camera. The still photo above comes from it. But I just thought that pointing the thing in his face when he walked over to chat might have put a damper on the conversation. Bad judgment, perhaps. Old school.