Conservative or Liberal, Deist or Pagan, Jersey transplant or Lehigh Valley native, we're all in this mess together. Let's talk. Let us do no harm. Today's one-liner: "No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full." - Lucius Cornelius Sulla
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Easton Red Rovers Enthusiastically Greet Bill Clinton
I dropped by after work today, expecting to be denied admission or shot on sight. But the lengthy line moved quickly, and I was inside the gym in a matter of minutes. No one was searched. I needed no ticket. I didn't need to know the "right" people. The place was packed with young and old - people of all colors - as diverse a group as you'll ever see in the Lehigh Valley. And the atmosphere was very much like an IronPigs game or a crowd of kids waiting on Christmas morning.
Easton's marching band played every song in its arsenal. After that, there was upbeat pop music playing in the background while self-important geeks in suits paraded up and down the gym, encouraging different cheers. They were the hot dogs, I guess. Periodically, the cavalry battle charge would sound. The only thing missing was Ferrous.
Finally, the moment had arrived. An anxious mob was introduced to Easton Mayor Sal Panto (a few boos) ... and President Bill Clinton. The place exploded. Easton is without question Clinton country, and Bill really seemed pleasantly surprised by how much people still love him here in the rust belt.
Eight years of George Bush does things like that.
I looked around the room, and everyone was on their feet. Even the youthful McCain "protesters," who had come brandishing signs for the Arizona senator, were respectfully applauding.
Unfortunately, Sal Panto had to make some opening remarks. Until about 90 minutes before the event, he had no idea he was to introduce the former prez. But Panto began a speech that made me think Hizzoner would be pretty good in Washington himself. He told us that President Clinton had strengthened America's cities with 100,000 police officers, while Bush added none. He lauded Hillary Clinton as a person who "cares not only about homeland security, but hometown security." It was a terrific speech, but Clinton was standing right by Sal, and people came for Bill.
"We want Bill" is the shout that went out. Sal wrapped things up and quickly introduced Clinton.
The place erupted again, and Bill finally had to tell people to sit down. Like me, he really liked Sal's opening remarks, and told him so. And then he was off.
He started with a very slight reference to Barack's belittling remarks that small town America clings to guns and religion, saying only that "little flap ... has really tickled me." He also groused that his daughter, Chelsea, had told the press her mom would be a much better president than him. "Did you ever see a family where the women don't stick together?" But then he admitted his daughter was actually right.
He reminded Eastonians that their city was the third place in the United States to announce the Declaration of Independence. And his whole speech was based on two parts of that document - the concept that all are created equal and that we should constantly be striving to form a "more perfect union."
With respect to equality, he noted the differences in the room, noting their beauty while stressing that "our common humanity matters more." And the idea of forming a more perfect union, he explained, should be interpreted as meaning that we must always try to make America a better place.
From there he springboarded into a detailed and somewhat cerebral discussion of our energy crisis, health care, home mortgage crisis and tax cuts for the wealthy.
With respect to our energy crisis, for example, he noted we need to repeal energy subsidies and fight global warming, which would actually create thousands of jobs for renovations to buildings and schools while saving us in energy costs. He claims the technology already exists to produce cars that operate at 100 mpg, and we need to make those cars ... here.
He calls them "hybrids on steroids."
He asked people who know someone without health insurance to raise their hands. It was nearly unanimous, which Clinton noted is sad for one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Hillary's health plan gives people the option of buying into the same plan available for federal employees. He also noted that thirty per cent of the cost of health care is consumed by inexcusable paperwork.
He continued with the same detail for every subject he discussed. He relied on no pious platitudes. Despite his obvious brilliance, he never condescended to us, but delivered detail after detail with a soft southern drawl.
I really like Barack Obama's message of hope, although some of his shiny armor is tarnished in my mind's eye. I like Hillary Clinton's practical solutions even more. On April 22, I'll be voting for her.