Columns » John Brummett

Odd songs, solid candidate

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Because I’d been on vacation at the time, the state Democratic Party lent me a video of the Hillary Clinton Show at the Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner.

The first striking thing was the curious song selection providing the fanfare as Hillary entered Alltel Arena. That’s an admittedly minor aside to which I’ll return.

Then there was Hillary’s seeming grace and patience as she slowly made her spotlighted way to her seat between tables of anxiously reaching admirers. For a quarter-hour, she smiled, emoted, waved, hugged, kissed, received whispers, posed for photographs and either experienced or deftly feigned old and warm acquaintance.

Then there was her speech. While certainly not artful in the style of, say, her husband, its tone and substance had the extraordinary effect of causing me to forget the personal things that have always bugged me — her condescending nature, the obsessive ambition, my perception of her phoniness and her posturing as a woman’s champion when all she really did was attach herself to a man.

For the first time, I found myself pondering her seriously as president. And I did so comfortably, even optimistically.

I may as well. A Democrat is the favorite to be the next president. It may be that only Barack Obama’s continuing and uncanny ability to raise staggering sums of money stands in her way.

Now, about that music: Mrs. Clinton entered the hall of thousands to the blaring of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home?” That’s the rock-country duet of Jon Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles with lines that seemed in this context to be making the highly dubious assertion that Arkansas was Mrs. Clinton’s real home.

There were two unintentionally relevant lines. One was the opening: “I spent 20 years trying to get out of this place,” which I took to mean Arkansas. And this: “There’s only one place left to go,” which I took to mean the Oval Office.

Then they played John Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses.” The last time I heard that in a political context was at an NRA rally. Apparently Arkansas Democrats share the gun enthusiasts’ misunderstanding. “Ain’t that America for you and me” is not a proud patriotic anthem. It’s an ironic lament about mundane existence.

But Hillary’s speech — delivered in the round as she strolled while holding a microphone — hit just about every right note.

She said America needs to become a place again that sets noble goals, the first of which should be health coverage for everyone. You found yourself taking her seriously, considering that she once tried health reform arrogantly and ineptly. Now she knows the two most important things: the issue and what not to do.

She said that if our debacle in Iraq hasn’t been drawn down by the time she becomes president, she’ll end it forthwith. America’s greatest foreign policy need will be to regain trust, respect and friendship in the world. You sense that Hillary has the right sensibility for that, and you are certain that, with her husband, she has the residual good will internationally.

Is she tough and decisive enough for terrorists? Let us stipulate that her toughness and decisiveness have never been lacking. Being overly controlling is the common complaint, but, then, someone had to try to discipline that husband of hers.

She said the current administration was the most ill-prepared for governing, or has been the most indifferent to governing, in her memory. When she said she was running because she had the most relevant experience, it occurred to you that she was right — in comparison to Obama, Edwards, Giuliani, Romney, indeed to all others except possibly McCain. But not even McCain has been a co-president.

If you can consider Hillary apart from the wrong way she rubs you and, instead, on the basis of the tasks for which she offers herself, she tends to rehabilitate markedly.

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