My sister called me today with the news of President Clinton's impending heart surgery. Why is that remarkable? Well, because not many family members in the public at large call other family members to discuss the health of a former president, do they? Such is the iconic place of President Clinton in my life.
I first met him at a rally in Connecticut when I was President of the Connecticut College Democrats (that's "connecticut college" democrats, not Connecticut "college democrats." See what I'm sayin'? Don't want any fact checkers getting all wee-wee'd up about me pretending to have presided over the entire state of CT. geez...) He could barely speak from his legendary, ongoing hoarseness on the campaign trail, the "meeting" was a hand touch and a smile/nod from him. Not a moment that has held any significance for him at all; we can all bet the farm on that. But for me it was electric. I truly believed that he had the power to change America for the better. I believed in his essential good nature and his genuine desire to do right by working people in America. He embodied hope for the future in my 21 year-old mind, and set me on the course toward politics as a field of study and career.
The next meeting was when I was a chubby junior in college interning at the League of Women Voters in DC, the summer after his inauguration. It was the first time the League had been invited to the Rose Garden since Jimmy Carter had been in the White House. I have the photo captured by the White House photographer, and it is not unlike the one that was shown ad nauseum of a young Billy Clinton meeting President Kennedy. Except that I'm really fat in this photo. And I have absolutely heinous-looking hair. Not to mention that I hadn't figured out at that stage of my fashion development that 90 degree days and linen dresses do NOT mix if you don't want to look like you rolled out of bed and ran through a garden hedge to arrive in the Rose Garden for the President and First Lady. Oh--and not to mention that I have THE DORKIEST look on my face during the fateful handshake. So if I ever run for office, you can be pretty sure that photo will not be getting any airplay if I have anything to do with it.
That day rocked my world. Both he and the first lady came around and shook everyone's hands, said hello politely but clearly had the looks of people who did not know who the hell you were, as one would imagine they wouldn't. By contrast, I knew more about Bill Clinton than I'm sure he has ever been comfortable with, courtesy of various and sundry "media" outlets during the campaign. I looked at him with the eyes of recognition, and it was so weird in the moment to look in the eyes of someone you know so much about (superficially, albeit) and to have him look back at you and know nothing about you. There are few experiences in life where you are meeting someone who is not on the same general level of knowledge as you are at the time you meet, and it was wiggy. But the thing that struck me, and that embarrasses me to admit, is that all I could think was, "wow. He's so tall." It was very reassuring in a weird way. He also had a fantastic handshake, unlike John Ashcroft's limp-wristed, sweaty offering which is a whole other blogaration that I will share forthwith. Anyway, I felt then, and always felt, that we were in good hands as a nation with Bill Clinton at the helm.
Later on, my brother became a police officer. His first job was as a result of the Clinton administration's fulfilled promise to put more cops on the streets. My brother is now a detective (picture Sipowicz if you need the real mental image of him!), after a stellar career on the beat, where he took a bullet, lived to tell, and also saved a few people's lives. My brother was there because of President Clinton. The people he saved are here because of President Clinton. Whatever your opinion of Oval Office bl*wjobs, you can't argue with a president who actually CREATES real jobs for real people.
Short Story Long: Obviously, this little trip down Esther's Fat Photo With The President memory lane is precipitated by the news that BC will undergo the surgery and that some Republicans on yahoo message boards were saying that they hope he dies a painful death, etc. I cannot even craft a response to that kind of evilminded vitriol. I just can't. But I can send (cause I just KNOW he's reading starspangledhaggis) ;) all of my and my family's prayers for a swift and full recovery.
The Comeback Kid will be back.