Interlude—The journey away from bountiful: Long ago and far away, the first Candidate Clinton won the White House. Two times!
He did so when it had started to seem like Democrats would never get there again. In a letter in today's New York Times, Linda Bloodworth-Thomason recalls the documentary she shot as part of that first campaign.
The film appeared in 1992. It was called The Man From Hope.
In fairness, that first Candidate Clinton didn't have to run against Vladimir Putin. He didn't have to run against James B. Comey (Comey the God), who hadn't achieved godlike status yet and hadn't even served his term chasing around in search of the Whitewater pseudo-scandal.
He didn't have to run against Maureen Dowd, who didn't yet have a column. He didn't have to run against years of her previous broken-souled columns.
Alas! Along with everything else, the second Clinton had to run against twenty-four years of demonization and pseudo-scandal. She had to run in the face of the code of silence, according to which the career liberal world had never raised its voice, or really said boo, about all that demonization.
(Dearest darlings, use your heads! Careers had hung in the balance!)
All this being said, the first Candidate Clinton had to run against a pretty fair dose of The Major Dumb too. Much of its came from within the mainstream press, especially at the start of his primary campaign.
This included the invention, by the New York Times, of the Whitewater pseudo-scandal, the pseudo-scandal which gave its name to an entire era. It included a lot of silly stuff from a lot of silly people. (He said he didn't inhale!)
In the end, that first candidate prevailed. It's worth recalling some of the ways he managed to do so.
For starters, that film was called The Man From Hope, not Here Come Da Judge. As far as we know, he never offered an estimate of the number of fellow citizens who were deplorable, perhaps irredeemable, and thus on their way to Hell.
He adopted a more hopeful, welcoming tone, especially toward the tens of millions of people whose votes he hoped to attain:
He said we don't have a single person to waste. He said he wanted to work on behalf of people "who work hard and play by the rules."
His official campaign book bore this title: Putting People First. When those early attacks occurred in New Hampshire, he told Granite State voters that he would stand by them, in the face of the economic downturn, "until the last dog dies."
Years later, after two terms in the White House, he discussed his home state's white Pentecostals in his memoir, My Life. He discussed this particular home-state group long before quoting us on page 934, the climax of the book.
Long ago and far away, we recommended that earlier portion of the first Clinton's book. As we said at the time, we think that portion of his book helps explain how the first Clinton managed to get to the White House.
It also helps us ponder the journey the liberal world has taken since then. It has been a natavistic journey—a trip away from bountiful.
Why was this ex-president talking about his home state's Pentecostals? His rumination started with his honeymoon trip to Haiti, where he and his wife observed voodoo ceremonies.
Why in the world did he bother with that? We'll let that first Clinton explain:
CLINTON (page 237): I describe my brief foray into the world of voodoo because I’ve always been fascinated by the way different cultures try to make sense of life, nature, and the virtually universal belief that there is a nonphysical spirit force at work in the world that existed before humanity and will be here when we all are gone. Haitians’ understanding of how God is manifested in our lives is very different from that of most Christians, Jews, or Muslims, but their documented experiences certainly prove the old adage that the Lord works in mysterious ways.He said he was discussing that experience because he's always been fascinated by People Who Aren't Just Like Him!
Shortly after his honeymoo ended, this same first Clinton was campaigning all over Arkansas for the job of attorney general. He soon attended a black church event in which the Reverend Robert Jenkins was inaugurated as pastor of Morning Star Baptist:
CLINTON (page 249): As Robert got into his sermon, the temperature seemed to rise. All of a sudden an older lady sitting near me stood up, shaking and shouting, seized by the spirit of the Lord. A moment later a man got up in an even louder and more uncontrollable state. When he couldn’t calm down, a couple of the churchmen escorted him to a little room in the back of the church that held the church robes and closed the door. He continued to shout something unintelligible and bang against the walls. I turned around just in time to see him literally tear the door off its hinges, throw it down, and run out into the churchyard screaming. It reminded me of the scene at Max Beauvoir’s in Haiti, except that these people believed they had been moved by Jesus.Already, our modern lizards are loudly complaining about this man's overt racism. In this deeply atavistic reaction, we modern liberals keep displaying our own prehistoric state. We modern liberals know very few things, but we know them amazingly well.
It's at this point in the first Clinton's book that he turns to the Pentecostals. “Not long afterward, I saw white Christians have similar experiences,” he writes, “when my finance officer...invited me to the annual summer camp meeting of the Pentecostals in Redfield, about thirty miles south of Little Rock.”
Clinton describes a life-long interest that grew from that first experience. “I made that summer camp meeting every summer but one between 1977 and 1992,” he writes. “Every year I witnessed some amazing new manifestations of the Pentecostals’ faith.”
For the record, we have no religious beliefs ourselves. Beyond that, this first Clinton isn't a Pentecostal.
Still and all, he took great interest in what he saw at those annual retreats. Did we mention the fact that this winning candidate was able to express affection and admiration for—was able to be fascinated by—People Who Weren't Just Like Him?
For Clinton, it wasn’t the ecstatic experiences of these white Pentecostals that mattered the most. In the following passage, we'd say this first Clinton reveals the breadth of spirit and curiosity that help explain how he got to the White House.
We'll highlight the main idea:
CLINTON (page 251): Far more important than what I saw the Pentecostals do were the friendships I made among them. I liked and admired them because they lived their faith. They are strictly anti-abortion, but unlike some others, they will make sure that any unwanted baby, regardless of race or disability, has a loving home. They disagreed with me on abortion and gay rights, but they still followed Christ’s admonition to love their neighbors.They disagreed with that first Candidate Clinton on abortion and gay rights; they didn't vote for him much. But that first Clinton was able to "like and admire" Those People because of the ways he saw them living their faith.
“Besides being true to their faith, the Pentecostals I knew were good citizens,” he writes. “They thought it was a sin not to vote.” After describing a compromise he reached with Pentecostal ministers about the licensing of church-run child-care centers, Clinton concludes the rumination that began with that trip to Haiti:
CLINTON (page 252): Knowing the Pentecostals has enriched and changed my life. Whatever your religious views, or lack of them, seeing people live their faith in a spirit of love toward all people, not just your own, is beautiful to behold. If you ever get a chance to go to a Pentecostal service, don’t miss it.Say what? This first Clinton was able to say that Those People enriched his life!
They didn't vote for this first Clinton much, but he said they'd enriched his life. He didn't tell us how they answered that GSS survey question.
Bill Clinton was portrayed as The Man From Hope. Whatever his shortcomings may have been, he knew how to see the good in Those People, The Others.
He said we didn't have a single one of Those People to waste. He didn't estimate the number of people who were on their way straight to Hell.
Not many years later, a markedly different attitude has seeped through the liberal world.
The second Candidate Clinton was forced to run against twenty-four years of demonization. Those demonizations had worked quite well, in large part because the Chaits, the Maddows, the Marshalls, the Dionnes had persistently let them stand.
She ran and hid in 2012, when they came after Susan Rice and invented the Benghazi narrative. She ran and hid in 2016, when Comey the God unsheathed his terrible swift sword and hardened the email narrative.
We're speaking here of Cable Star Maddow, not of Candidate Clinton. But along the way, the admiring attitude of that first Clinton had given way to the ugly strain in which our tribe turns to cable every night eager to gulp down the tribal gruel in which we're encouraged to dream—Yay yay yay yay!—that They'll all end up jail.
In which we're told that half of Them are headed for Hell. In which we're told it's been proven!
Bill Clinton was advertised as The Man from Hope. Seven years earlier, Geraldine Page had won an Oscar for taking The Trip to Bountiful.
In the years since 1992, we've been on a journey away from that place. We've been trained in a tribal mandate, in which we're required to loathe.
Tomorrow, we'll return to that damning question, the one on the GSS.
Tomorrow: Black and white together!