OK, read this encomium (from the Washington Post’s transcript of Bill Clinton’s portrait unveiling) about Bill Clinton and tell me:
a. whether it was spoken by a Repubican or Democrat
b. who spoke them?
The years have done a lot to clarify the strengths of this man. As a candidate for any office, whether it be the state attorney general or the president, Bill Clinton showed incredible energy and great personal appeal. As chief executive, he showed a deep and far- ranging knowledge of public policy, a great compassion for people in need, and the forward-looking spirit that Americans like in a president.
Bill Clinton could always see a better day ahead and Americans knew he was working hard to bring that day closer.
Over eight years it was clear that Bill Clinton loved the job of the presidency. He filled this house with energy and joy. He’s a man of enthusiasm and warmth, who could make a compelling case and effectively advance the causes that drew him to public service.
People saw those gifts very early in Bill Clinton. He’s remembered in Hope, Arkansas, and other places along the way as an eager, good-hearted boy who seemed destined for big things.
People in Bill Clinton’s life have always expected him to succeed. And more than that, they wanted him to succeed.
And meeting those expectations took more than charm and intellect. It took hard work and drive and determination and optimism. I mean, after all, you’ve got to be optimistic to give six months of your life running the McGovern campaign in Texas.
He won his first statewide office at age 30, sworn in as governor at 32. He’s five-time governor of Arkansas; the first man from that state to become the president. He’s also the first man in his party since Franklin Roosevelt to win a second term in the White House.
I mean, I can tell you more of the story, but it’s coming out in fine bookstores all over America.
You might’ve reasonably thought the speaker was Al Gore (pre-Lewinsky), Hilary Clinton or even John Kerry. If you answered George Bush, you’ve either read the news or you’re brilliant. No, you’re not hallucinating. No this isn’t some surrealistic dream in which the world is turned topsy turvy. Bush really said those things about a man he truly hates. His words were so elegant and so uncharacteristic of Bush, it’s almost like he could stomach writing or saying them and so asked the Clintonites to write them for him.
Bill Clinton’s remarks were also moving and certainly more honest and truthful than Bush’s and even subtly critical of Bush policies (if you read between the lines):
President [Bush], by his generous words to Hillary and me today, has proved once again that in the end, we are held together by this grand system of ours that permits us to debate and struggle and fight for what we believe is right.
And because it’s free, because it is a system of majority rule and minority rights, we’re still around here after over 200 years. And most of the time, we get it right. And I’m honored to be a small part of it.
I was thinking of President and Mrs. Bush, on the way over here today, which ones of these pictures I liked the most, and in the darkest days, which ones helped me the most.
There’s one over in the Cabinet Room by a man named Laszlo of Theodore Roosevelt. I used to look at it all the time when I felt bad and I worried, “Was the war in Bosnia going to come out all right? Would the Kosovar refugees ever be able to go home?”
If you look at that picture [of] Theodore Roosevelt, who was known as our most macho, bully, self-confident president, you look at that picture and you see here’s a human being who’s scared to death and not sure it’s going to come out all right. And he does the right thing, anyway. That’s what I saw in that picture.
This is a great country. Politics is noble work. I’ve just been doing some interviews in connection with my book, and I told Mr. Ryder yesterday, “You know, most the people I’ve known in this business, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, were good people, honest people, and they did what they thought was right. And I hope that I’ll live long enough to see American politics return to vigorous debates where we argue who’s right and wrong, not who’s good and bad.”
That was the dig in case you didn’t catch it. Pretty mild, but a telling comment nevertheless.