First Impressions of Bill Clinton

In August 1991, twelve Democratic leaders and influencers, were seated in leather armchairs at a walnut oval table in a small dining room at one of downtown Chicago’s private clubs. I was the only woman. When Governor Bill Clinton entered the room, his th-2tall navy-suited body seemed to shift the atmosphere, moving the dust molecules away from him and clearing the air as he moved. He gave a hardy salutation and proceeded to introduce himself to each person while he circumnavigated the room, one-by-one. I was halfway around the table, and when he reached me I stood and looked up to his bemused rosy face, full of laugh lines. He had a big red nose, like Santa Claus. As I tried to introduce myself, he interrupted me by saying he knew who I was— the Executive Director of the state Democratic Party. He asked if I knew my name was the same as one of King Lear’s daughters. “Yes,” I said, “My name came from her.” He leaned over and whispered let’s keep that between us since she wasn’t such a great character. And just like that we had a best-buddies pact.

He finished working the room, told us why he was thinking of running for president, and asked us to support him. He never sat down.

A few weeks later, Bill and Hillary entered a crowded 2nd-floor meeting room in a Chicago hotel with about 50 curious political activists who gathered to meet them for the first time. He neither ushered her in ahead of him as a well-mannered (albeit chauvinistic) gentleman nor did he make her walk behind him as an ill-mannered boor. Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton (L)
Side-by-side they came to us. We all jumped to our feet and cheered before he even said hello, before he shook one hand. It was two months before he announced his candidacy for President. His nascent message stressing personal responsibility for welfare recipients echoed what I’d learned in Alcoholics Anonymous — to acknowledge that I am responsible for the choices I make in my own life. Later in his presidency I despised his welfare reform policy but for now this seemingly spiritual insight vaulted my commitment to a new height. This was my guy.

The first week in October, one of Clinton’s many Chicago friends asked me to join him in driving Bill Clinton to Midway Airport. We’d been at a 100-person meet-and-greet where Clinton learned I was moving to Little Rock to work on his campaign. He looked back at me in the car and asked what my boss said when I told him I was quitting my job. My boss hoped I’d change my mind, so I told Clinton he wasn’t happy.  Clinton picked up the car phone, called my boss, thanked him for letting me have this opportunity of a lifetime and said he was happy to have me on board. He ended the call by inviting my boss to bring his family down to the Governor’s mansion for a weekend. In the back seat I imagined throwing my arms around his neck and kissing the top of his ever-loving head.

I was in Little Rock by the end of the week.

2016: Rachel Jackson and Hillary Clinton – Slander Will Wound but Will Not Dishonor

2016: Rachel Jackson and Hillary Clinton – Slander Will Wound but Will Not Dishonor

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Oh, my dear Rachel Jackson — 188 years after the brutal campaign between your husband Andrew and John Quincy Adams, the citizens fear the republic will not survive the brutal campaign of 2016 for the 45th President of the United States.

The two candidates are Republican Donald Trump, a known philanderer, tax cheat and a liar; and Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated by the Democratic Party, the same party formed by your husband in 1824.

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2016 voters mistrust Hillary Clinton. Statisticians show she distorts the truth 28% of the time, compared to Trump’s lying 70% of the time. However, the public fixates on Republican propaganda that pounces on her daily for mishandling classified material when she was Secretary of State. Yes, Rachel, we have had three women Secretaries of State since women won the right to vote in 1919.

This lack of voter confidence is not the hallmark of the 2016 campaign, however.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has proclaimed Hillary and other women incompetent, liars, corrupt, pigs, fat and flawed. Trump runs beauty pageants and builds hotels. He’s been plagued by women publicly accusing him of unlawful touching. He calls them liars and shifts the conversation to stories of our 42nd President’s sex scandals. Our 42nd President, Bill Clinton, is Hillary’s husband. Trump excoriates Hillary for enabling her husband’s extramarital affairs, then he turns around and calls for Hillary’s aide de camp to be dismissed because the aide’s husband exposed himself to a series of women. Trump says the aide’s marriage to a “major sleaze” makes her a security risk.

America in 2016 is collectively depressed by the deluge of vulgarity. Voters clamor for more issues yet soak up the scurrilous, all the while exclaiming the United States will never regain her honor.

You know how this feels, my dear Rachel. The Hermitage, your beloved Nashville plantation, restored for visitors, serves up details of your death. When you married Andrew Jackson, your violently jealous first husband published a news article that you were never divorced, knowing that he lied to you about filing your divorce papers. He accused you of adultery and bigamy. Your new husband Andrew, a lawyer, rectified the situation and you remarried him legally. All this humiliation was heaped upon you before you were twenty-three years old.

Andrew Jackson fought wars and politicked around the country for the next forty years leaving you at home to manage the 1000-acre family farm. Your work kept you from the day-long carriage ride to town until the day you had to shop for your Inaugural Ball gown. It was only then, in your Nashville hotel lobby, after Andrew Jackson won the election, that you came across a campaign pamphlet accusing Andrew of adultery and running off with you, another man’s wife.  And you accused of bigamy.

Weakened by stress, depression and shame, you returned to the Hermitage and died, buried in your Inaugural ball gown. Our 7th President began his term in profound grief without you at his side.

thWell, Rachel, I want you to know the government peacefully transferred power from John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson and Old Hickory scripted your tombstone, “A being so gentle and so virtuous – slander might wound but could not dishonor.”

On the eve of the election, our country’s history is small comfort to the downtrodden, but they will soon hope again because slander might wound the United States but it will not dishonor her.