So, I know I’m way behind on posting things about my cross-country trip. I promise more stories are coming, but this one is more timely… So we’ll start here.
“Democrats want to fall in love; Republicans fall in line.” The first time I ever heard that, I probably laughed. When I heard some blowhard pundit say that on CNN during the Iowa Caucuses, I definitely laughed. And now I find myself doing the same thing.
Ok, so I definitely supported John Edwards in the last election and early on in this election because he’s HOTT. I mean, have you seen that Newsweek cover*?? Holy crap. Pure hotness. But I also consider myself a populist, so I could pass off my choice as an academic one. But now I’ve found myself falling head over heels with Hillary, and even more shockingly, it has nothing to do with Bill.
As previously chronicled, I have been obsessed with Bill Clinton for many years. At least since high school. I love him. So when my friend and I were passing through Little Rock on our cross-country trip, I demanded that we make a stop at the Clinton Library. We got there a little late, and only got to spend an hour inside, but that was probably as much as I could take. We were barely into the exhibit areas before I started bawling like a baby.
The first thing that set me off was a big exhibit about the first election in ’92. Of course, no one expected the governor of Arkansas to be a contender. Most people don’t even know where Arkansas is. But Bill had a special something (the same special something that gets him in trouble, I think) that made people believe in him, want to elect him, and love him. There were lots of old pictures from his first time on the campaign trail—pictures of a very young George Stephenopolis celebrating Clinton’s performance in a debate, of Bill wiping barbeque off Al Gore’s chin while they ate lunch on the bus, and of Bill and Hillary taking a moment to relax between stops on the bus. Looking at those pictures, I started to sob. My traveling partner looked at me like I had three heads. “Look at them!” I exclaimed. “They look so young. They look like REAL PEOPLE.”
And it was true. Hillary had frizzy hair, big shoulder pads, dark eyebrows. She was a political neophyte. She was a far cry from the poised, posh, and polished (read: calculated) image of her we now have.
Next, we moved on to the year-by-year and “themed” areas. By “themed” I mean they were little cubbies dealing with different aspects of his presidency, like the economy, foreign policy, youth outreach and volunteerism (specifically the AmeriCorps program), diversity, and of course, the Monica/Whitewater stuff. The very first cubbie had a comparison list of different statistics, with a figure from his first day in office and his last. They were things like the unemployment rate, homelessness, people on welfare, and the national debt. It was a really amazing thing to see how the economy and the quality of life for the middle class rose so drastically during his eight years as the president. Thinking of the disaster that all of these statistics have become recently, I started crying again. This time, I looked over at my traveling partner, and she seemed to understand.
A few cubbies later, we got to the one on foreign policy. There, they displayed a letter that a little Kenyan boy (who was living in the UK) wrote to Clinton about his trip to Africa. I never realized this, but Clinton was the first US President to visit Africa. The little boy wrote about how he felt proud to be an African because Bill Clinton had visited the continent. He also said that Bill and Hillary looked good in the Kente cloth (I have no doubt that’s true for Bill) and that he would feel like the luckiest boy on earth if he got a response to his letter. Of course, they also had a copy of the letter that had been sent to the little boy. And also of course, I started bawling again.
I continued to tear up as I went through the rest of the exhibit (we didn’t get to go upstairs to see the personal things, like Hillary’s gown from the second inaugural ball), but those are the things that most affected me. But as I said, my falling for Hillary has nothing to do with Bill. But it has everything to do with the things I saw about Hillary in that museum.
Like when Hillary went to Africa to speak about women’s rights and demanding that they be considered human rights. And that picture of her, in a relaxed moment, looking so real. And then there was New Hampshire. I know much has been said about Hillary’s “crying” moment. Which I think is ridiculous because she didn’t cry. But man, did she look human. I felt my heart go out to her, and worried about what the Republicans would say. I could just imagine her being picked apart for being an “emotional woman.” Hell, John Edwards has already commented on her fashion sense and Barack Obama unleashed that probably-harsher-than-he-intended line about how she’s “likeable enough.”
But in the lead-up to the New Hampshire primary, I finally got what I needed from Hillary—the old Hillary, the human Hillary. And I’ll admit, I am really happy that she won New Hampshire. Now, I’m not saying I’m about to go volunteer for her campaign, or donate, or even vote for her. But I’m definitely starting to fall in love with Hillary.
* I wanted to link it here, but I can’t. However, if you go to the newsweek site, click on the Magazine Tab, and then “Browse recent issues”–go to the December 24th issue. Wow.