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Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Hillary Clinton: beyond word

by Tom Sullivan

Speeches by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ohio's Governor John Kasich came back to back last night during election night coverage. I was listening on the car radio between local watch parties, so I didn't see the visuals. Putting aside their histories, parties and policies, what struck me hearing the audio only was the gut feel of the two speeches.

Clinton has improved as a candidate since 2008 and over the course of this campaign. She has adopted some of Bernie Sanders' populist themes. She also knows she does not have her husband's skill at delivering speeches and stirring crowds. And yet she still structured last night's victory speech point-point-point. Here is an excerpt:

And so our next president needs to be ready to face three big tasks. First can you make positive differences in people's lives? Second, can you keep us safe? Third, can you bring our country together again?

Now making differences in people's lives comes first because Americans everywhere are hungry for solutions. They want to break down the barriers holding them back. So we can all rise together. Ask any parent, you'll hear nothing is more important than making sure their kids have a good school and a good teacher, no matter what zip code they live in. They deserve a president who understands that when we invest in our children's education, we're investing in all of our futures.

And young people across America struggling under the weight of student debt find it difficult to imagine the futures they want. And they deserve a president who will help relieve them of that burden and help future generations go to college without borrowing a dime for tuition.

And grandparents who worry about retirement deserve a president who will protect and then expand social security for those who need it most, not cut or privatize it.

Families deserve a president who will fight for the things that are our priorities at home but too often aren't priorities in Washington: affordable child care, paid family leave, and, something we have waited for long enough, equal pay for equal work for women.

And above all, above all, hard working Americans across our country deserve a president with both the ideas and the know how to create good jobs with rising incomes right here in our country. And I am absolutely convinced that we have the tools to do that.
Clinton went on to take swipes at Donald Trump without naming him. America needs a commander-in-chief who will "defend our country, not embarrass it." She referenced some average American's she had met along the campaign trail and spoke of their struggles, etc., etc. It was solid, but formulaic. I agreed with her. The problem was I didn't believe her.

Kasich has not received much time on the debate stages dominated by Donald Trump and the other GOP front runners. Last night was perhaps the most we have heard from him in one dose during the entire campaign. Here is an excerpt:
You know, when I became governor of Ohio, I went to New York, and I met with some of the rating agencies. Things were bad. We had lost 350,000 jobs: we were $8 billion in the hole, and our credit was hanging in the balance. And they told me: we're about to cut up your credit card and give me a new one where you can't buy as much.

I said, "You don't understand Ohio; you don't understand Ohioans." So I can't wait to go back again. We're now up 400,000-plus jobs. We're running a $2 billion surplus. Our pensions are secure. We have cut taxes by more than any governor in this country, and we are leaving no one behind. Not the mentally ill, the drug addicted, or the working poor.

And I don't know whether you can actually serve a meal of words, but I would like to go back to those credit rating agencies where they can learn to eat their words about doubting Ohio, huh? And you know, ladies and gentlemen, you know, look, my whole life has been about trying to create a climate of opportunity for people.

You know, as my father carried that mail on his back — and his father was a coal miner, and I just was told by my cousin, I can't realize this, that my mother, one of four, was the only one to graduate from high school. The other three barely made it out of the eighth grade because they were poor. As I have traveled the country and I look into your eyes: you want to believe, you want to believe again that we can have job security, you want to believe again that wages can rise, you want to believe that your children are going to have ultimately a better America than we got from your mothers and fathers. That's the great American legacy: that our kids will be better than we are.

And I want people in Ohio to know, as I think you do ... I want people around the country to know that I understand these tough issues. I grew up in these situations in that little blue collar town in McKees Rocks — and in my mind's eye is the need to forget the politics, forget the pollsters, forget all the focus groups. Because, you see, I represent you, and it's my job to look at these situations and these problems and to listen to you, and that it's my job to go and fix them.

And if that means at times I have to take some heat, then that's just the price of leadership in America. Okay? Now I want you to know: the campaign goes on. And I also want you to know that it's been my intention to make you proud.
In contrast to Clinton's boilerplate and Donald Trump's egoist bombast, Kasich was aspirational. Folksy. He spoke of Americans being "all part of a giant mosaic, a snapshot in time." He seemed touched by the faith Ohio had placed in him, finishing with "This is all I got, okay?" This is who I am and I'm giving it to you. However one might dissect his actions as governor of Ohio, his stances as a Republican, or his chances going forward, the contrast with Clinton was marked. Kasich seemed authentic and sincere. I believed him.

Hillary Clinton? Not so much. It was not lost on me that had Sen. Elizabeth Warren given the very same speech as Clinton, I would have believed her. There's passion in her. When Bernie Sanders speaks, you believe him even when you don't agree with him. You cannot focus-group that. You cannot bottle it. After last night's victories, Clinton is firmly in control of the race for the Democratic nomination. But Hillary Clinton doesn't seem ever to have cracked the code for moving an audience, and it has not rubbed off from Bill. Going into the fall, she is going to need it. Maybe the NSA can help?