Columnist Joe Conason, in Little Rock this week to follow Bill Clinton for a coming book, dipped into senatorial politics and found an incumbent U.S. Senator, Blanche Lincoln, looking weak rather than thoughtful. He found pressure from Lt. Gov. Bill Halter and a free health clinic and a not-thinly-veiled bit of advice from Clinton, whose political sense is pretty good.
On the very same day that Blanche Lambert Lincoln will finally vote on whether to allow healthcare reform to reach the Senate floor, thousands of the dithering Arkansas Democrat's uninsured constituents will be lining up to see doctors at a free medical clinic in Little Rock. Anticipating this remarkable coincidence, Lincoln may even realize that conservative ideologues and insurance lobbyists are not the only voices that should command her attention during this debate.
Then, recalling Clinton's speech:
Clinton asked his audience, which included hundreds of Democratic donors and activists, to imagine a scenario in which he could somehow run for a third term as president (which drew enthusiastic applause). Then he asked them to consider what would happen if he offered the following campaign promise:
"If you elect me again, the first thing I'm going to do is put a $900 billion tax on you ... I'm going to have the government print the money, and put it on elevated flatbeds, and display it along the national mall. And we're going to broadcast this ceremony on national television. And then I'm going to motor myself from one end of that $900 billion to the other, sprinkling Kerosene on it, and then I'm going to set it afire and watch it burn.
"How many people do you think would vote for me?" he demanded. "If you don't want to reform healthcare, that is your position. That is what you are advocating."
Lincoln wasn't there, but she could have heard the roaring laughter all the way back in Washington.