I still believe in a place called Hope.

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

I just spent three days in Little Rock, Arkansas - where I was invited to talk about technology and politics at the Clinton Presidential Library, to a conference of under-35 elected officials.

The visit to the Clinton Library was an extraordinary reminder of how good we had it during Bill Clinton's presidency. In a stark contrast to the failed Bush presidency, the exhibits remind you of achievement after achievement of the Clinton years.

But it all started in 1992.

In that campaign, Bill Clinton called on a new generation to participate in the political life of our nation, and millions of us responded. He asked us to "vote our hopes, not our fears" -- and many of us joined him in believing in a place called Hope.

Clinton told us that his presidency would be about "putting people first" and putting power back in the hands of the people. He came from outside Washington, to fight the "privileged, private interests" that have "hijacked" our government.

He asked us to "look beyond the stereotypes that blind us" and "restore our sense of unity and community". And he called on us all to build a "country of boundless hopes and endless dreams; a country that once again lifts up its people, and inspires the world".

Sound familiar?

The messages and themes of that 1992 campaign live on today -- in the campaign of Barack Obama. It's Barack Obama who is inspiring yet another new generation of Americans. It's Barack Obama who is fighting against the entrenched Washington insiders that stifle debate and impede progress. It's Barack Obama that understands that "hope" isn't just a bumper sticker, but a vision and promise of a better country.

I have no doubt in my mind that if his wife weren't running, Bill Clinton would be Barack Obama's #1 supporter in this presidential campaign.

I love Bill Clinton. And all these years later, I still believe in him and his vision. Like many people I know, I work in politics today because of his call to service. I am a Clinton man.

And that's why I support Barack Obama for President.

  • Prantha Trivedi (unverified)

    I used to adore Bill Clinton. I still have the gorgeous invitation to his 1997 inauguration framed in my office.

    Sadly, however, I cannot stand to see his face any more. The ugliness and the lies that have come from the Clinton Klan is simply not acceptable to me.

    I also prefer the vision that Obama offers, in contrast to the mud and divisiveness that the Clintons wield.

    Go Obama 2008 and 2012. It is time for the Clintons to go home.

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    Did you see my bricks? I bought a couple of those bricks when they built the joint. I wish I'd known you were going -- I would have asked you to check on it for me!


  • Chris (unverified)

    I remember Bill Clinton passing NAFTA, bombing Baghdad, undoing welfare, and otherwise fucking over lots of people. My hope is that Obama is not the same kind of Democrat.

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    Well, "Chris" (please a secondary identifier)... I don't think there's much point to arguing over the Clinton administration, but there were LOTS of extraordinary achievements...

    Family and medical leave, AmeriCorps, the assault weapons ban, millions of new acres of national monuments, the S-CHIP program, 100,000 new cops, and lots more... And don't forget the longest economic expansion in American history.

    But I wasn't talking about the presidency. I was talking about the themes of the campaign.

  • Miles (unverified)

    Kari -- I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I didn't think Clinton's victory in 1992 was built on a "new generation" of voters. Was young voter turnout significantly higher in 1992 than in 1984 or 1988? I was under the impression that a big part of his coalition was the white, working class Democrats who had supported Reagan. Clinton's "empathy" while campaigning is legendary, and he connected with that group in a way that Mondale or Dukakis never could. He brought them home.

    Obama HAS brought huge numbers of new, young voters into the process. That's an incredible achivement, although those voters are also the most unreliable. I would be more comfortable going into November if I new there was a "new generation" supporting Obama, along with the old-school Democrats.

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    Let's be honest here - Clinton got elected in 1992 because of Ross Perot.

    That said, like Kari I remember that campaign quite fondly. I was a college sophmore and I transfered my registration from D.C. to Indiana so Clinton could have one more vote in that red state. I voluntered at the local Indiana Dem office (an oxymoron at the time in Richmond Indiana). I remember in my youthful exuberance pledging to drink a beer for every 25 electoral votes Clinton won on election night and actually doing it!

    That campaign was about hope and change and I loved Bubba.

    Sadly these days the idea of him wagging his finger and talking about Jesse Jackson is the only thing that comes to mind when I think about Clinton. He is going to be in Oregon this weekend and I am just pissed at him that he is going to foul up traffic around the Timbers game at PGE Park. That is how low my estimation has fallen of him. A soccer game is far more important than he is.

    Makes me really sad.

  • Judith (unverified)

    Bill Clinton had a way with words in his younger days that was very charismatic and persuasive. Barack Obama has a similar skill. But.....

    There is a huge difference between the two and their talk about putting the power back in the hands of the people. Clinton had little if any actual experience doing that. He didn't have any experience doing grass roots political work. The kind of work that actually puts political power back into the hands of "We the People". Thus his words were empty.

    Obama, on the other hand has built his political career on just such work. His ability to effectively build political coalitions at a grassroots level is evidenced in how he is running his presidential campaign. Further, one can hear the echo of the individual Americans he has spoken with and learned from in the context of his speeches and his his extraordinarily cogent Plan for America: Blue Print for Change

    So, Kari, while I am with you in your support of Obama in his bid for the presidency, I am of the mind that he really does have the ability and skill to move the power back to the People. Unlike Bill Clinton, back "in the day".

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    I feel about Clinton the way someone might feel about a dyfunctional father -- pissed about the ways that he messed up, but ultimately still loving the guy. And yes, I get that's why you're supporting Obama -- although I think he understands hope, deep down and viscerally, even better than Bill did.

  • Randy (unverified)

    Clinton was actually a decent president. NAFTA and welform reform were a couple of things he got correct. We could use another 8 years of a Clinton administration although I don't think Hillary is nearly as open minded as her husband. Obama is a clueless nitwit compared to Bill Clinton. Or at least his campaign posturing is. Who knows what he would actually do if elected. Hopefully Obama isn't as stupid as his campaign promises. Clinton had to backtrack on a bunch of his campaign promises and positions which is what allowed him to be successful.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    Bill Clinton was the last Democrat I voted for (in 1992, before I realized what he was).

    Chris is correct about Bill C. And Chris Lowe, on an earlier thread, posted this list:

    "...his egregious refusal to commute the execution of a mentally retarded man during the presidential campaign of 1992 in order to establish his 'tough on crime' cred (his man, Ricky Ray Rector, was so little aware of reality that he asked for part of his last meal to be saved for him for after the execution), his statement that 'the era of big government is over,' his repeated abandonment of friends & allies when they became controversial..., his support for a draconian version of what became the 'Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996,' which in the form originally proposed by Janet Reno included many of the worst elements of the so-called USA Patriot Act..., his willingness to collude with Saddam Hussein to inflict murderous sanctions on Iraqi civilians, and to carry out low-level warfare against Iraq throughout the 1990s, his lying promise to 'fix' acknowledged problems with the triangulating Republican-led 'welfare reform' of 1996, which he never again addressed, his not-only refusal-to-be-involved in stopping the Rwandan genocide, but active obstruction for six crucial weeks of efforts by other countries to have the U.N. intervene, including forcing the withdrawal of U.N. troops already there, his promotion and arm-twisting of congressional Democrats in favor of NAFTA -- the list goes on."

    I would add: support for the largest per capita genocide since Hitler in East Timor; the bombing of the al Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands; 78 days of merciless bombing of Yugoslavia; support for the bloodbath in Kosovo; etc.

    The rest of the world knows and understands. Only elites of the political class here seem ignorant of all these crimes.

  • Bill R. (unverified)

    I was a volunteer in the Clinton campaign in '92. I was a driver in his motorcade in a visit to Portland in the primary. (Gwen Ifill was one of my passengers.) I got a chance to chat a moment with him at a fundraising reception. I received an invitation to his inauguration in Jan. '93 and proudly attended with my wife and daughter. I supported him through his years as president, even when he had his disgraceful sexual behavior. He was an extremely talented person whose personal flaws and behavior betrayed the trust of his followers and the American people and sabotaged not only his presidency but helped pave the way for George W. Bush.

    I was pleased to see some redemption in his charity work. But now I have to say I find him a repulsive and diminished character, who has sabotaged his wife's campaign with his ineptness and lack of personal discipline. He is a sad and diminished figure. I have many relics of that campaign, including the video of "The Man from Hope." I grieve the loss of respect and high hopes I once had for him.

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    Different Chris here. I was an early 30s college professor at the time you describe, Kari, who at the probably comparable point in my own life was facing the advent of Reagan and moving out to seek work in the Carter/Reagan recession. If there were comparable inspirations in my own life it would have been the soaring rhetoric of another convention speaker, who didn't end up running for president (Mario Cuomo), and perhaps the Jesse Jackson campaign of '88, which also purported to be a movement, but proved one that fell apart in the end because Jackson kept it too focused on his person and personality -- and Jackson at least nominally had a movement organization, the Rainbow Coalition, for which there is no Obama equivalent.

    Anyway, back to 1992. At that time I knew a number of engaged, humane, energetic & hence attractive younger people. And I have a very distinct memory of going to a party that one such gave as a college senior, in part to share his experiences of some travel to East Africa, India and Nepal (he was the son of an anthropologist who worked in Nepal). This must have been shortly after the '92 election but before the inaugural.

    I met a young woman there, who had taken time off to work as an intern in Salem, and then on the Clinton campaign. And she was just blown away by the fact that Clinton had won. I think perhaps she had doubted he would. So she was just standing there astonished, almost dazed, wondering what came next, because in the election of Bill Clinton, the far horizon of her imagined possibilities for progressive politics had been reached.

    To me that was astonishing in a different way, and at later moments of reflection incredibly depressing, as a measure of how successful the Reagan reaction had been on much of the youth of the '80s. Because to me, even then, Clinton was a hope only in the sense that his administration might open up more political space for hopes to his left. And in the event that proved to be an illusion. He shut down progressives and backed attacks on us by the DLC, he triangulated against us, he abandoned and punished his friends and rewarded his enemies.

    I went off him definitively with his disgusting abuse of his ostensibly close friend from law school Lani Guinier, whom he trashed over malicious race-baiting misrepresentations of her writings and rather theoretical ideas, which he did not even bother to read or have his staff read before trashing her. Instead he accepted the lies that she was a "quota queen," when actually her ideas were about routes to black inclusion alternative to classic affirmative action; all this despite his rep as a brilliant engaged idea man. Instead he let himself be rolled again and again by the kind of petty non-issues Obama and Clinton have been facing. Bill Clinton bears much of the blame for the development of that kind of political culture, because he so frequently rolled over and triangulated, so often rewarded the behavior.

    Anyway, I share many of the criticisms voiced by other Chris above. For me Clinton was not the man from Hope so much as the man of dashed hopes. Which may be why I'm so cautious about the enthusiasm for Barack Obama's faith, trust and pixie dust politics, even as I profoundly distrust Hillary Clinton for her contributions to the Clintonite cementing of Reaganism.

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    I agree with much of what Kari said. It was Clinton's 1992 race that got me involved in politics beyond the local school board.


    No, "welfare reform" was not one of the things he got correct. People always like calling it "welfare reform," but in actuality it was the destruction of welfare. There is no welfare anymore - his "reform" got rid of it. We still have TANF, which you can only get a few years out of your entire life, and a pittance of food stamps. That's it. There are no longer payments to poor families so they can buy the things they need that aren't covered by food stamps (like toilet paper, shampoo, cleaning supplies) or use it for additional food, the electric bill, etc. My sister was on welfare during those years. She was struggling enough and when welfare was pulled out from under her, she was in a hole she couldn't get out of. She had to move back in with all of us with her children. She had to drop out of college so she could work more hours. And she ended up on what little assistance there was still left for a lot longer than she would have had she been able to stay in school and finish her degree.

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    Yeah, I agree that welfare reform was particularly shortsighted.

    I've never understood why the conservatives yammer on and on about how mothers ought to stay home with their children rather than work - and yet, they sought the destruction of the very program that makes it possible for mothers to stay home with their children.

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    And then refused to pay for child care when they forced said mothers out of the home...nice.

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    Robert Reich was the hero of that administration. I certainly liked the Clintons in the 90s, but he was by no means progressive. He was no friend of the 4th amendment for example, allowing all kinds of curtailment of rights to "protect against crime."

    Also, I believe the final accounting on those "100,000 cops" was it turned out to be about 15,000. I may not have the number right, but it was nowhere near 100K when all was said and done.

    And of course, he's trashed his legacy with what a dick he's been this cycle. The sooner we forget about the Clintons, the better for this country.

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    This is so totally not the point of this post, but I've got a source that says they actually funded all 100,000 cops. TJ, what's yours?

  • james bradach (unverified)

    Bill will never regain my respect in this lifetime. I can vividly remember the chimps around me using his behavior as a reason to vote for the child Bush. Deregulation in communication, energy and banking have brought about a lot of the wreckage that is accumulating these days. I fondly remember the good economy but often feel we sold a good deal of the future for it. I dislike him out there trying to sell Hillary and don't want to see him in the Whitehouse again. I wish he would find something more dignified to do. Centrism is stradling a crack opening up in the earth, you disappear. That is what is is!

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    On welfare I'm with Kari & Jenni & Kristin.

    The paradox you point out goes deeper & back further, though, Kari. Part of what let AFDC or whatever its final acronym was be done down was the argument that welfare encouraged out-of-wedlock childbearing (at the time often and inaccurately confused with teen pregnancy, which actually peaked in the 1950s, but in the context of huge numbers of young-age marriages).

    But insofar as there was some truth to that (and broader social trends of single women bearing children show it can only be some truth), it was a product of requirements in the law that there be no male in the household for eligibility.

    Those requirements were likewise imposed by conservatives, although much earlier and including large numbers of conservative Southern Democrats. While there was a general argument about not supporting lazy or malingering able-bodied men, something that goes back at least to Elizabethan laws to punish "sturdy beggars", it also was ineluctably tinged with racist arguments and imputations about the alleged laziness of black men, & probably Chicanos & Puerto Ricans in relevant parts of the country. Those in turn were tied to strong interests in keeping racially discriminatory low wages low -- cf. exclusions of largely black/latino/filipino agricultural and domestic workers from NLRA & minimum wage laws.

    Behind all of this is a central debate about how to understand poverty. Is it primarily an artifact of the structure of society? Say of defining "full employment" as national average 5% nominal unemployment, not counting "discouraged workers" and those who don't claim unemployment because benefits have run out, when that 5% is really 2% or 3% in many communities, and much higher, sometimes into the double digits, in other communities where there just aren't more jobs? If your social structure requires a substantial proportion of people to be unemployed and treats lower levels of unemployment as economically bad so that policy should be to increase it, blaming people for joblessness becomes dicey at best. Never mind the 2/3 of people in poverty who worked full time, even after the great working class income gains of the '40s-'60s (while large majority of poor remained employed workers, the majority of workers ceased to be poor, as it had been through the Great Depression).

    Or is poverty primarily due to characterological, psychological or "cultural" deficiencies (as in "culture of poverty"/"underclass" theories)?

    While I lean strongly toward the structural end, people I regard as reasonable would often probably argue for some mix, while perhaps disagreeing about the mix, and perhaps about whether psychology and culture might have structural-experiential determinants.

    But Bill Clinton skewed the debate heavily against the structural view by taking up the Reaganite mantra of "individual responsibility" in virtual isolation from societal considerations.

    A telling feature of how far that went was that Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of the main intellectual godfathers of "culture of poverty"/"underclass" arguments for welfare reform, going back to Johnson, and the author of "benign neglect" as Nixon's house Democrat on social policy, and later senator from New York (does Hillary have his seat?), actually voted against the law Clinton signed.

    Moynihan's no vote was exactly for the reason Jenni states, that "reform" was really abolition. Moynihan wanted drastic revisions in the content and operations of welfare, but he thought welfare should remain an entitlement. And he probably would have wanted Jenni's sister to be able to finish school.

    Along with Kristin's childcare point, the construction of "workfare" in such a way that it obstructed and disfavored education as a route out of poverty, and in effect treated work as a punishment for alleged sins of bad character, was a particularly nasty aspect of making the "reform" punitive.

  • Mari Anne (unverified)

    Obama moves people to get up off their couches and begin to make the America of our dreams. He inspires people like I have not seen in over 20-30 years. I link him more to Robert Kennedy then to Clinton. It has been a long time coming for many of us to be inspired at this level. After years of being beaten down I have HOPE today thanks to Obama.

    I have a picture of myself with Bill Clinton and Hillary in the White House but it is put away. Nice memory but...

  • Peter Camejo (unverified)

    It's not just Bill Clinton who's the problem, folks, although it's nice to see some people waking up to reality about him.

    Without the Democratic Party's support, Bush's war policies could never have been implemented. The Democrats voted in Congress a resolution that included the phrase, "unequivocal support for George Bush's conduct of the war in Iraq."

    They have voted for all the funding requests for the war in Iraq. In 2005 at the State of Union address, the entire Congress, with few if any exceptions, gave George Bush 39 standing ovations in one hour. They rose to their feet and applauded every time Bush used the word Iraq even before he finished his sentence.

    Of course this is nothing new for the Democratic Party. This is the Party of human slavery, of the Jim Crow of 5,000 lynchings, of fighting the right of women to vote, and of imprisoning Japanese Americans in camps.

    This is the Party that launched a war of mass murder killing two million Vietnamese as the "peace" party in the 1960s. It is the party that has supported the destruction of the trade unions, lowered taxes for the rich -- while raising them for the poor. The Democrats voted 98% in favor of the Patriot Act in the Senate without reading it.

    Earlier, 100 percent of Senate Democrats voted to confirm the right-winger Antonin Scalia for the Supreme Court.

    In 2004 the Democrats ran John Kerry for President -- the same John Kerry who said he could implement Bush's war policies better than Bush especially in increasing militarization in America and promoting the war in Iraq.

    Which Side Are You On?

  • MCT (unverified)

    NAFTA. The 20/20 hindsight disaster. Bill Clinton had my respect until I realized what a different country we'd be living in if not for NAFTA all those years ago, and the slow death of security and quality of life for low and middle income Americans. Clinton's NAFTA made a lot of corporations, shareholders and top level execs wealthy, and the Bush gave them huge tax breaks to help ease the pain of having to kick SOMETHING back to America. And Bill sunk lower when I saw him cozy with Bush the Elder....and excuse me but I do not CARE if it was for charity. Very little of that charity drive helped anyone in the US....smoke and mirrors, too little too late. (New Orleans was not undone by Katrina as much as it has been by George W. Bush, FEMA, and the mortgage and insurance industries who will no longer do business in the region.)

    How could any Democrat rub shoulders with the regime that stole two presidential elections???? WAY too chummy, and very suspicious to me. What was supposed to be a 'feel good' unifying collaboration gave me a really bad feeling. What's in it for the Clintons?

    And that is why I support Barack Obama. And I am tired of the hubris behind the debate over whether tax dollars SHOULD be used to help...taxpayers and American citizens. Why the hell shouldn't they be?


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