Thursday, July 3, 2014

Under Exposed

I grew up in Arkansas. I went to school there, graduated from the University of Arkansas, after which I lived and worked in Arkansas for awhile before I decided to move to Texas.

My work experience in Arkansas included some time as a reporter during one of Bill Clinton's campaigns for governor. I was assigned to cover some of his trips around the state, which usually meant traveling in the small, private plane that had been reserved for members of the press — but, once or twice, I got to travel in the candidate's small, private plane and sit next to the candidate.

One of the things I learned from that experience is that it really doesn't take long to fly from one spot in Arkansas to another. If the flight originates in Little Rock, which is in the center of Arkansas, it probably takes 20–30 minutes tops — maybe less — to fly to any of the four corners of the state.

That isn't a lot of time to get to know a person. It was barely enough time to interview the candidate one on one. Sometimes it wasn't even that.

Another thing I learned on that assignment — candidates give the same speech all day. It's the speech of the day, different from the speech that was given the day before and different from the one that will be given the day after — but repeated however many times the candidate speaks that particular day.

If a candidate makes several stops on a given day, many of the reporters who are following him/her can repeat the speech with him/her, word for word, by day's end.

That seems to be SOP on the campaign trail — impersonal though it may be.

Even in such an impersonal setting, one can still make a personal connection with the candidate — and my experience with Bill Clinton was that he could make anyone feel as if he/she was his closest friend.

As I recall, I first met Bill Clinton at a campaign rally in my hometown. He was there to help open the local campaign headquarters. He gave a speech, then worked the crowd, shaking hands and handing out campaign buttons. He came to me, shook my hand, gave me a button (I've still got it) and moved on. We only spoke for a minute if that.

But there was a connection there. I know it ... And knowing Bill as well as I did, well, I felt I could reach some conclusions about him, what motivated him, all that.

Sometimes Hillary was there, sometimes not. She didn't always accompany her husband on his campaign trips in Arkansas, but he was always campaigning. In Arkansas, state officials ran for office every two years until the voters voted to extend the terms to four years. A governor really only had a few months after taking the oath of office before he had to start running again — if he wanted to be re–elected.

Hillary was pregnant with Chelsea during an odd–numbered year and gave birth to her early in an even–numbered year so pregnancy didn't prevent her from campaigning, although the demands of being a young mother may have. Anyway, I don't think she campaigned with her husband much when Chelsea's age could be measured in months. (If she had, I'm sure it would have been the topic of endless conversation and speculation.)

Hillary was rarely there when I covered one of Bill's campaigns.

As a matter of fact, I met Hillary once in a most unexpected way. I was attending a non–political event in Little Rock, and, as I was leaving, I encountered the Clintons on their way to a different event.

Not realizing who she was at first, I almost collided with Hillary. We exchanged a momentary glance. No words were said. None of that really matters, though. We were in the same place at the same time.

There was that connection, you know? Maybe it was the kind of thing that rubbed off on Hillary from Bill. I don't know. But I've been following the trajectory of her career ever since.

Well, being first lady of Arkansas and first lady of the United States isn't exactly resume material. Being first lady of anything, really, is a faux title. No one votes on it; it's a perk that comes with being married to the guy for whom people did vote.

Some first ladies do get to do things of substance. When Bill was governor, he dispatched his wife to conduct community meetings in every county in the state to gather thoughts for improving Arkansas' school system. When he was president, he gave her health care reform.

But after the Clintons emerged from the White House "dead broke," as Hillary said in a recent interview, she went to work in the U.S. Senate — which is something for which people do vote — to support that struggling family. Chelsea, after all, was interested in attending some high–dollar schools.

Then, after she lost the presidential nomination to Barack Obama, and he went on to be elected, she served as secretary of State.

And now she's being mentioned as a possible president again. She even wrote a book to revive interest.

But it is distressing, is it not, to see the absence of coverage for this tome. After all, what could be more important than Hillary? I don't think the poor thing gets enough exposure.

Maybe she needs to take a cue from Oprah and have not only her own TV show but her own TV network that could promote her 24 hours a day.

Someone is missing an opportunity here, I think, just as the networks missed opportunities to replace Jay Leno and David Letterman with Hillary.

But it's not too late for someone to fill this niche and get the nation's attention away from all these unpleasant topics, like jobs and the economy and immigration and health care, and back where it belongs.

On Hillary.

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