Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Obama, Peace and Bumpers

The group that makes the popular 01.20.09 bumper sticker is getting behind Barack Obama. BLD Designs, the Manchester, Vt.-based creators of the Bush's-last-day merchandise, sees new opportunity in Obama.

This week, it
unveils a line dedicated to the new Democratic rock star."Iowa told us now is the time," Jodi Joseph, the company's sales director, tells our Suzi Parker. "We're incorporating a peace message with Obama. Everything he has brought to the forefront typifies what our message is about—peace and change. So many of our customers are embracing Obama, it made sense to put that into our message."

The line includes
buttons, caps, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. There are two choices: One uses a peace symbol for the O, and underneath it says, "POTUS 1.20.09." The second has the same peace symbol but says, "Believe" underneath. When Sen. John Kerry endorsed Obama last week, he and his staff got some of the cool stuff.

As for the Bush-last-day merchandise, Joseph says sales have been "phenomenal." Joseph says the company is sure that people like Obama as much as they loathe Bush. Not so with their attempt to sell Hillary Clinton with the message "Hillary 11.4.08."

"When we first brought out Hilary, our customers were still too fed up with Bush to concentrate on anything else," she says.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Whispers Collection

Huck's Campaign Dogs Take a Lickin'

It was a scary story out of Iowa when the wires reported that Mike Huckabee's son and some friends were in a car wreck while returning home to Arkansas after the caucus the Republican presidential hopeful won. But what went unreported was what happened to Huck's three dogs, who had traveled on his campaign bus in Iowa. Well, we've got word that they are OK, too. The littlest, Toby, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was thrown from his kennel and wandered off after the wreck, but somebody picked him up. Two others, Huck's hunting Lab, Jet, and his wife's Shih Tzu, Sonic, were tossed around but not hurt badly. Yes, Sonic is named for the hamburger joint. Says Huckabee of his dogs, now heading to South Carolina to campaign: "They really keep Janet and me mellowed out. It was killing us not to have them with us" in New Hampshire.

Is Hope Now a Dirty Word?

Stalled GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney is chasing rising foe Mike Huckabee in an unusual way: He's calling the most recent Arkansas governor a Bill Clinton copy. And it's not just that he's labeling Huckabee a liberal. Romney also has printed up some fliers that suggest Huckabee and Clinton are clones, both being born in Hope, Ark. "Two Governors from Hope: One Was President, One Wants to Be," says the flier. Well, it's not just the flier. Our Suzi Parker reports that a freelance film crew was recently in Hope making videos to tie Clinton to Huckabee, as well as other footage.

Gary Johnson, museum director at the Hope Visitor Center & Museum, Hope says that when he got to work last Saturday morning, a 10-person crew was shooting outside the facility. A handwritten sign that Johnson said the crew created was in front of the museum. It said "Birthplace of Bill Clinton and Mike Huckabee" and in the corner in smaller type "And Hillary, too?" (She was born in Illinois.) The crew shot at the museum, the high school where Huckabee graduated, and the train station. According to Johnson, the group said it was doing freelance work for Romney, though the campaign hasn't confirmed that.

Not surprisingly, Huckabee isn't too keen on the effort to link him with Bubba, telling us: "Political dumpster diving isn't really new, but Romney is now giving a better understanding of how he's spending those millions of his — people in my hometown were laughing about a big film crew coming to Hope to try and find something negative about me. Maybe they will find that I broke lunch line in kindergarten or was forced to sit next to the teacher's desk for talking too much in fourth grade. If Romney had spent as much time telling people who he is today instead of telling them who he thinks I was when I was a child, he might not be watching his numbers plummet."

A Second Life for LBJ, Lady Bird

LBJ might be coming back the only way dead folks can: virtually—through a site like Second Life. We're told that the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum in Austin is examining virtual sites to hook today's techie generation on his days. Second Life allows users to build a virtual community, and the LBJ crew wants to create a world that touches on his major issues like civil rights and the Vietnam War. "Avatars" representing the president and others would be created. "Students," says library Director Betty Sue Flowers, "may be able to take the role of LBJ or a member of the cabinet or Congress, inhabiting realistic avatars as they grapple with presidential challenges."

Obama Goes Big in Minority Web World

Oprah Winfrey isn't Sen. Barack Obama's only secret to winning the Democratic presidential nomination. He has also jumped headfirst into the minority Internet networking world. It started when his team saw lots of traffic to the Obama site from Blackplanet.com, a social network of African-Americans with 16 million members. Kay Madati, the site's marketing boss, said Obama's folks reached out to him to create a profile page. It has worked big time, and Obama has since added profiles on sites targeting Hispanics, Christians, gays, and Asians. Obama's team says the social networking sites are a natural way to woo new voters. "Our approach to social networking outreach has also reflected our desire to make this campaign about not just one group of voters but millions who have not typically had a voice in the White House," says Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

Tony Orlando and John...as in McCain

He's been wanting to tie a yellow ribbon around Sen. John McCain ever since reading the GOP presidential candidate's moving autobiography two years ago. And now, aging pop star Tony Orlando has done it. Well, technically. Orlando, who's been working for veterans ever since his 1973 hit "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," awarded the former Vietnam War POW his annual Yellow Ribbon Medal of Freedom over the Veterans Day holiday. "I didn't pick him because he was running for office," says Orlando. "I wanted to do it a couple of years ago when I read his book." McCain, who was campaigning at the time, sent a thank-you video to the annual concert in Branson, Mo., where Orlando performs. McCain isn't the only former prisoner of war to get the award. The first recipient, Stephen Long, shared a cell wall with McCain in the "Hanoi Hilton."

Old War Horses Team Up Again

The duo who orchestrated the first Gulf War, former President George H.W. Bush and his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, is once again on the same page. We're told that the November reopening of major new exhibits at Bush's presidential library and museum, closed in April for the $8.3 million renovation, will coincide with the official dedication of the Brent Scowcroft Institute at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Surprisingly, Bush hasn't seen the new exhibits, some based on his family's 100-plus picture scrapbooks. But he's expected to sneak a peek next week when his granddaughter Jenna makes a stop there to promote her new book, Ana's Story.

Hillary, of Course, Says Wes Clark

So onetime presidential hopeful Wes Clark, the retired Army boss at NATO, has endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton for president. But his praise wasn't just a nod to her during a recent interview. He called her a battler extraordinaire: "Women can fight, and women can also lead. America is ready for the right leader." He gushes about her brains: "She does her homework and has a curiosity and pursues the evidence that leads to a logical decision." And "she is very experienced." There's more: "She is a very resolute person." So he's just buttering her up for a chance to be a possible Clinton veep nominee, right? Here he punts: "There's nothing you can say to a question like that."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bill Clinton: Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow / A Dispatch

2.57 p.m. A friend emails: "What are you doing tonight?" My reply: Clinton is in town for a speech so I'll be listening to him give the same speech he's given for the last six years.

3 p.m. "What's he here for?" she asks. Kicking off the inaugural lecture in the Frank and Kula Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series at the Clinton Library.

3.02 p.m. She lobs back an email. "Who are Frank and Kula Kumpuris?" Former Clinton supporters before they died and their sons are FOBs.

3.04 p.m. Another email. "Say no more." Already someone is bored with Clinton and he probably hasn't even landed in the city. A thought. Is he running on Clinton time? I might not be home until 10 or later. Egad.

5.48 p.m. Getting ready and discovered Clinton had been in the city all day. There was an earlier event but I did not get a media notification. Why? Apparently it was run by the Clinton Foundation and they had outside PR folks. I guess they used a selective media list for invitees.

6.20 p.m. Arrive. Through the metal detectors. Quickly crammed with other reporters into a stuffy elevator. Hope this thing doesn't stop.

6.27 p.m. Reporters can't go into the library's Great Hall yet. The Kumpuris family has asked that guests be seated first before reporters are allowed in. Only TV can do a pre-set. Reporters are allowed to sit in the library's replica of the Cabinet Room. Lucky me, I'm sitting in the Dept. of Justice chair. Note: Table needs dusting.

6.35 p.m. I learn a lot of reporters didn't know about the earlier event with Clinton. I don't feel so bad.6.47 p.m. After receiving bottles of water, we are ushered in.

7.10 p.m. Still waiting on Clinton.

7.11 p.m. Lights dim. People hish. Swanky jazz music plays. The mood is set. I hope this is a quickie.7.16 p.m. Still waiting. Is Bill watching Hill on the debate?

7.17 p.m. Showtime. Stephanie Streett, the Clinton Foundations' exec director, introduces special guests (Wesley Clark in the house.

7.18 p.m. Dr. Drew Kumpuris, a well-known cardiologist, has never introduced a president who happens to be a family friend. The one thing that resonates in his mind about Clinton? His 1991 theme song – "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow." Why? Clinton is a president that reminds as we are to think about tomorrow every day.

7.21 p.m. Ta da! Bill Clinton appears out of nowhere in a black suit (navy?), blue shirt and salmon tie to a standing ovation. What door did he enter? Had he been there the whole time? Sneaky. He jokes to Kumpuris: "Even when I was younger, you said I had an ugly heart."

7.22 p.m. Another joke: "I'll probably be the cheapest speaker you'll get."

7.24 p.m. Clinton begins his sermon on what is wrong with the world. "We live in a time when thinking is devalued too much." He recommends Ron Suskind's book "One Percent Solution." It would be fun to be in a book club with Clinton.

7.26 p.m. Talk turns to Iraq. The problem facing the world? Not poverty, global warming or terrorism, but identity. How we view our relationships. This is going to be deep.

7.27 p.m. Lots of stats follow.7.29 p.m. Clinton is on to social groups and habits. He says if four guys go out for a beer and one has too much, pretty soon four guys are drinking too much. I can think of four guys right now drinking too much at Vino's.

7.31 p.m. The world has three profound challenges. The first: Inequality.

7.32 p.m. Fact: One in four deaths around the globe will come from TB, AIDS or malaria this year.

7.33 p.m. Fact: Half the world's people live on less than $2 a day.

7.35 p.m. Clinton should be a professor. Hey, that makes sense. He does have a school named after him. Why doesn't he teach there?

7.38 p.m. Fact: There is a steady increase of people working full time and still falling below the poverty line.

7.39 p.m. More facts. Makes my head swimmy.

7.40 p.m. Second problem in the world: It's insecure. "As you might imagine, I'm home alone a lot and I watch the evening news, something I didn't do when I was president." One image that has jumped out at him: Romanians killing chickens because of bird flu. "That's a good story … along with a local crime story and whether Brittney Spears has grown her hair out."

7.41 p.m. More stats: Wars killed 100 million people in the 20th century. We have a long way to go before terrorism will kill that many. The thing with terrorism, Clinton says, is that we all think we can be a victim. We are victimized. So true.

7.42 p.m. Third problem: The world is unsustainable. Don't worry just about global warming. Worry, too, about resource depletion. Plants, animals, top soils, trees disappearing.

7.44 p.m. Forget the gloom. Clinton says he is optimistic. (Maybe because he thinks Hillary will win.)

7.45 p.m. More stats but I'm hungry.

7.46 p.m. "The most expensive thing you can in the modern world is go to war."

7.47 p.m. Energy independence can create new jobs and mobilize people. Examples: Denmark and Great Britain.

7.49 p.m. Clinton thinks it is crazy to go into a deficit when the country is at war. "It was immoral for me to get a tax break when we are at war."

7.53 p.m. Press perk up at Hillary mention. "I agree with Hillary on this we are safer than we were before 9.11." End of Hillary. More stats.

7.54 p.m. Fact: 99.9 percent of humans are genetically the same. Most people spend their time worrying about that one-tenth difference.

7.58 p.m. Clinton is globetrotting. Literally. Malawi, United Kingdom, Indonesia. I'm confused. I want to see his passport. Do former presidents have passports? Hmmm. I never thought about that before.

8.03 p.m. He says "Last story." It's a reflection on his work after the tsunami and how he saw the most beautiful child ever in Indonesia. Bill Clinton could have been a preacher, no doubt.

8.04 p.m. Clinton saw a three-day old baby in Indonesia after the tsunami and was asked to name it. He wanted a name for new beginnings. The name chosen: Dawn. A novelist couldn't make this stuff up.

8.05 p.m. You can tell Clinton hates getting old. He mentioned earlier his hair getting whiter, him being 60, the fact that the brain keeps working into the sixties and seventies. Poor thing. His birthday is Aug. 19. The Clinton trivia I know.

8.10 p.m. The End. Standing ovation. They are not playing Fleetwood Mac, are they? Oh yes, they are. They should have played John Lennon's "Imagine." That's what Clinton wanted the crowd to do. Imagine no poverty. Imagine solar energy. You get the picture.

8.11 p.m. Reception follows. Press not invited.

8.12 p.m. We are herded out to the elevator. The guard says the elevator is for the president. We're stuck until it's figured out the elevator is for the press, not the president. Sounds alike. We don't get prez treatment though.

8.15 p.m. I spy a baby grand piano, exotic flowers on tables, a fancy bar as I'm rushed toward the front door. Pretty. Fit for a prez, but not press.

The Huck Does the Surf

It's well known that presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee is a music buff. But he was especially excited about recently visiting the Surf Ballroom. That's the Iowa hall where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper played their last show before their 1959 fatal plane crash."Going to the Surf Ballroom was like visiting a shrine," says Huckabee. "What is remarkable about it is that it has remained a music venue continuously for over 60 years and still has the same booths, dance floor, and much of the original stage that was there in the '50s." Huckabee, who plays guitar for his band Capitol Offense, has plans to be part of the Surf's history."After we prove our mettle in the straw poll," he says, "we'll need to keep working Iowa this fall for the caucuses and are going to rent out the Surf for a Capitol Offense concert and campaign event." Huckabee has already talked to the owner and "got the ball rolling." He adds, "One of my new goals is to play the Surf...it will be an event worth driving or flying to Iowa for!"Don't count on any Buddy Holly songs, although the band knows how to play them. "We have played some Buddy Holly songs before, but playing them there is probably not something we'd do," Huckabee says. "We'd play the kind of things that he influenced."And, oh, about his chances of besting poll-leading Mitt Romney in the straw poll, Huckabee tells our Suzi Parker that he has a trick up his sleeve. The former Arkansas guv is hauling up some of his state's famous watermelons for poll attendees. Naturally, they are from Hope, home of the world's largest melon.

Central High Still All About Politics

There looks to be a touch of irony at the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Democratic Arkansas Gov. Orville Faubus's refusal to let blacks into Little Rock's Central High School and Republican President Dwight Eisenhower's effort to force him. Organizers say the September 25 event is becoming a major draw for Democratic presidential candidates. While virtually every pol has been invited, President Bush hasn't responded, but Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are expected to go, as is former Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee. Awaiting his invitation: John Edwards.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Case of Hope in Presidential Politics

Politics doesn't have to be mean, says GOP prez hopeful Mike Huckabee. Take the friendly voice mail he received from Hillary Clinton about the touchy subject of religion and politics. In a recent magazine article, Huckabee had said that although he goes to a very expressive church (Baptist), it doesn't mean that those like Clinton who attend a more formal and liturgical church (United Methodist) are less genuine. One memorable thing Hillary Clinton said in the message: "I do have a soft spot for boys from Hope." Like her spouse, Huckabee was born in Hope, Ark.

SEC's Cheer Squad: Bubba and Carville

Bill Clinton is not only spanning the world to campaign for AIDS relief and hitting the stump for Hillary. Now he'll be popping up in front of sports junkies. The Southeastern Conference, home to Bubba's favorite team, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks (he went to Georgetown and Yale, but some ties run deeper), is kicking off a 75th-anniversary bash later this month. Over the next year, the sec will run spots on CBS and ESPN celebrating a student-athlete at each of the 12 conference colleges. The Arkansas tale will be narrated by the former president. Chipping in for his own alma mater, Louisiana State University, will be Clinton's pal James Carville. There are a few open slots. Any GOP takers?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Hillary: Arkansas Runs Deep / A Dispatch

6.30 p.m. I arrive at Alltel Arena for the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner for the Democratic Party of Arkansas. A volunteer who recently lived in DC but now works at a Little Rock consulting firm quickly ushers me to the media riser. He asks, "How do we know you write for The Economist if there are no bylines?" Trust, baby, trust.
6.40 p.m. Set up computer. Some reporters are in a media area to interview local officials.

6.50 p.m. The start of money begging– please bid on auction items. Pink pearls, a condo stay in Colorado, dinner with Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson at Capeo, a great Italian restaurant a few blocks from the arena. I don't know the man auctioning these items, but he keeps saying Mary's name wrong. I thought everyone in Arkansas knew how to say her last name.

7:00 p.m. People rush the buffet stations. Three large banners direct guests to Barbecue, Steak and Shrimp and Italian Pasta. The poor folks in the stands who bought $25 tickets or received free ones just have to watch the rich people eat. Two bottles of wine – one red, one white – sit on white and blue table clothes along with a simple centerpiece of a single hydrangea in a small bowl with clear marbles. Some tables have more than two bottles. Hmmm. Someone is snatching bottles from other tables. That someone will be under the table before Hillary speaks.

7.04 p.m. The shrimp boil for 20 with Gov. Beebe and First Lady Ginger Beebe is underbid by $500 right now. Someone just made a $750 bid. Whew! I was worried.

7.05 p.m. Who is this yahoo? He is obviously not a professional auctioneer Holiday party with 40 people with Sen. Blanche Lincoln and the symphony singers at the home of wealthy Dem Vince Insalaco. Did he say open bar included? How much again?

7.07 p.m. A herd of reporters, including TV with their bulky cameras, file in with the mandatory escorts. These reporters have been questioning the statewide office holders. The escorts are adamant the reporters stay put. We wouldn't want any reporters sneaking out of the pen and discovering Hillary in a closet somewhere with an old flame. Will we get media availability with Hillary? No one knows. I'm betting no. I have claimed a spot at a table beside a sound guy doing a NYT crossword puzzle and eating buffet food. No Hillary sighting so far.

7.11 p.m. Democrats better pull out those checkbooks. "We don't want to risk someone as dismal as Mike Huckabee getting back into the governor's mansion," says the auctioneer.

7.15 p.m. Only 15 more minutes to give your cash to the Democratic Party. Silent auction is pure profit, folks, pure profit. So get the cash ready.

7.20 p.m. The Arkansas nightmare has ended because the state has a Democrat in the governor's mansion. Small round of applause echoes through the arena, which is becoming more packed including the peon seats in the stands.

7.24 p.m. Spotted: Max Parker, former Jim Guy Tucker staffer and former newspaper reporter, with Ed Fry, Congressman Vic Snyder's former chief-of-staff. David Pryor. A woman in a low cut black dress with red hair with cocktail in hand. State Sen. Shane Broadway. Bill Clinton's former chief of staff Mack McLarty. And Matt Decample, Governor Mike Beebe's press guru.

7.29 p.m. Governor Mike Beebe, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Sen. Mark Pryor Rep. Marion Berry, Rep. Vic Snyder and Rep Mike Ross along Arkansas state constitutional officers are welcomed. And tad a! Hillary in the house!. She shows up on the JumboTron in a peacock blue satin jacket with a black camisole underneath, black pants and a gold necklace. A country song blares "Who says you can't go home?" Wait. Is that Bon Jovi's new one? I think so. Hillary waves to the peons in the stands. They scream. Traveling aide Huma Abedin is with her along with two Secret Service agents with shaved heads who could kick your ass in a blink.

7.33 p.m. All bidding on silent auction items ends in 10 minutes. Hillary still works the crowd. She waves again to the peons in the stands. Not as loud of a screams this time. This Bon Jovi song is driving me crazy. Celine Dion isn't as annoying. Surely. Not that I listen to Celine Dion. Yeah, come to think of it, why aren't they playing Celine. I thought she sung the official Hillary campaign song.

7.35 p.m. She is still working the crowd and getting her picture snapped with old women. And waving to the peons. Now she is closer, right under them. This is the first time she has returned to Arkansas since announcing her White House run.

7.37 p.m. Annoying song ends replaced with John Mellencamp – Little Pink Houses for Me and You. Is that what Hillary will build if elected? Instead of bridges to the 21st century.

7.41. p.m. She is still working the crowd as Mellencamp blares. Ain't this America for you and me? The caterers are dancing. The politicos are mingling. Song ends, huge cheers.

7.42 p.m. Some other country song begins playing. Something about our town. I wonder if Hillary will speak in the Southern accent she used in Selma, Ala. This is beginning to feel like a ho-down with a capital HO.

7.45. p.m. Program starts in two minutes. We should all sit down for the posting of the colors, a male voice booms. Hillary still works the crowd. Does this message apply to her, too?

7.47 p.m. The Democratic Party of Arkansas sure likes the country music. Another sucky song plays about picking on a six-string and watching the cows go by. With so much country music, I almost feel like this is a Republican event. Are the Democrats trying to get the Nashville vote away from the Repubs?

7.50 p.m. Please clear the aisles so the colors can begin, the voice of the Democratic God commands. Democrats including Rep. Marion Berry just won't sit down. Come on, let's get this going. I don't want to be here at midnight.

7.52 p.m. The Star Spangled Banner is sung. The JumboTron shows Hillary looking pensive. She is sitting behind the governor. Maybe she is wondering why she is sitting behind him instead of at his table. Maybe she figures he should be sitting behind her.

7.59 p.m. Prayer by Hank Wilkins. Brother-in-law to former Dept. of Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. He thanks a God who cares about health care, the working poor and yes, even the price of gasoline. Amen.

8 p.m. Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Bill Gwatney comes out on the stage, which is in the round. No podium, no backdrop, just a stage. He welcomes everyone and says the state will do in 2008 what it did in 2006 – go Democratic. Ginger Beebe, the hardest working first lady in the history of the state. "No offense Sen. Clinton," he says. (Ouch that had to hurt.) First vice-chairman of the DNC (and former Little Rock mayor) Lottie Shackleford is in the house. "Elections are won and lost down in the trenches," he says. We knew that, right?

8.05 p.m. Gwatney introduces Beebe, who gets a standing ovation. "God Bless All of Y'all Out there," he says. "This is an extraordinary night made possible by too many people to recount." But he acknowledges a few: Gwatney. (Alert: This is where all the butt kissing starts). There is some young man who wears a hat and h as bushy hair and an IQ out the roof that Beebe is oohing and ahhing over. This mystery man came from Virginia and had worked on a governor's campaign there. He used modern devices to get out the vote. Then, he was asked to come to Arkansas. He provided the same task for all the constitutional officers. "You saw what happened in the last election." Who is this technological wonderkid? Bruce Sinclair, the party's executive director.

8.09 p.m. Beebe still praises people including his wife, Ginger. Remember she is the hardest working first lady the state has ever ever had.

8.10 p.m. Beebe turns his attention to Hillary. She has a mind that few can match with a heart that goes with it. She was a law professor, then the state's first lady of Arkansas for 12 years (applause here ) who performed that role in "magnificent fashion" and improved the quality of education for the young people of this state.

She went on to be a "wonderful first lady" for the United States of America. "Lest you think she was done, she then acquitted herself in extraordinary fashion … brought people together…united behind her candidacy and she is the senator from New York." Lincoln and Pryor will be the first to tell you how respected Hillary is, he says. Why is Hillary here tonight? To talk about quitting the US Senate. (Wonder why Lincoln hasn't endorsed Hillary?) And now Hillary seeks the highest office this country has to offer. Crazy loud applause. "On behalf of nearly three million Arkansans welcome home," Beebe says to Hillary.

8.13 p.m. Beebe praises the Arkansas congressional delegation. Ross. Hardest campaigner. Snyder. Epitomizes courage. Berry. Acerbic guy. Arkansas' Will Rogers. Pryor. Young senator who carries that name well. Lincoln. Fighter of the Delta.

8.17 p.m. Aide Huma stands over to the side of the arena texting on her Blackberry.

8.19 p.m. Marion Berry. Oh my, this should be entertaining, to say the least. "It's my job to make fun of George W. Bush," he says. "I come to do it reluctantly because he is so pitiful. You feel like you are abusing someone. I bring this up to say to all of you … it matters who the president of the United States is. I offer you two visual examples of that. In all my days, when you rose before the public, you were suppose to stand up, not lay down on the podium …we got a president who doesn't stand up. And now we have public officials doing the say goddang thing." Did he just say goddang? He adds, "I will be so glad to have a president who can pronounce nuclear I don't know what to do."

8.22 p.m. Berry praises his colleagues. Yawn. "I will not support Mike Huckabee for president," he says. Loud applause.

8.25 p.m. Berry presents the Jeffery Ledbetter Award to Josh Blevins, former president of the Young Democrats. Poor Blevins, no time for him to give a speech.

8.26 p.m. Snyder takes the stage and welcomes Hillary back to Arkansas. He has five minutes to talk. Snyder has known Hillary for decades. He offers insights on being an old man and a new parent. "She will be the next president of the United States," he says. Snyder shows a picture on the JumboTron of his son Penn with Hillary. Snyder says Penn feeds Hillary ideas. Now he shows a picture of Hillary with a spot on her jacket. That's Penn's drool.

It's not a political event without a baby.

8.30 p.m. Snyder better hurry. He has less than one minute to wrap it up. He is presenting an award to Gary Philips. Whoever that is.

8.33 p.m. Philips now thanks everyone. Here's a big surprise: He wants Hillary to be president.

8.34 p.m. Mike Ross' turn to tell a few jokes. He thinks Berry could be David Letterman's replacement some day. I think I've heard this one before. Thank you, thank you for all your support. Blah blah blah. "We need a Democratic president," he says. "Welcome home Hillary."

He adds, "It's important to have someone who knows our state and our people at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. For my daughter's generation, the first woman president of the United States." White signs with "Madame President" wave and people stand and cheer.

8.37 p.m. Another award. Media looks bored and sleepy especially the cameramen and photographers.

8.39 p.m. Gwatney returns to the stage for more awards. He apologizes for not singling out the constitutional officers earlier. I thought he did. Time for kudos to Charlie Daniels and crew including the country's youngest attorney general Dustin McDaniel.

8.41 p.m. Annie Abrams, a tireless Democrat volunteer, receives a heritage award and a standing ovation.

8.43 p.m. Mark Pryor takes the stage. He, too, praises everyone and gives a lovefest to Beebe. Time to tune out.

8.46 p.m. Tune back in. Now this is nice. Pryor asks all veterans to stand up and thanks them for their service. Smart move. He now talks about Iraq. "However you feel about the war … please understand that everyone you have seen on this stage tonight and everyone will see on this stage tonight has made our troops our number one priority." He continues to talk

8.50 p.m. Blanche Lincoln's turn. She is in a cream pantsuit with a stark white tank top underneath it. (Note: Wear color next time, Blanche.) If Hillary wants to master a Southern accent, she should take lessons from Lincoln. Lincoln sends a shout out to former Senator David Pryor and his wife Barbara. Here, here, a standing ovation. "I am so excited to see such an incredible number of Arkansas Democrats under one roof," she says. It's obvious why she is called 'Arkansas' cheerleader.' "In 2008, Arkansas will be solid blue," she says.

8.52 p.m. Lincoln introduces Hillary. She says Hillary has stood out as a young attorney on the Nixon impeachment trails, as a mother, as a first lady, as a senator for New York. "We are so excited to have her home … as one of our own because she is one of our own in Arkansas," Lincoln says. She has known Hillary for years but they have gotten better acquainted in the Senate. Thanks to Hillary, the number of women in the Senate is 16. "Never before in the history of this country."

8.54 p.m. Hillary takes the stage. And hugs Lincoln. Does she know Lincoln hasn't officially endorsed her? Rooms stands and applauses. She waves her hand to the crowd in a majestic fashion.

She says, "Hello, Arkansas. Thank you so much" along with a few other thank yous as the crowd roars.

Alert: No Southern drawl. Smart move.

"You can imagine the rush of feelings and emotions and images that have just filled my mind since I have arrived late this afternoon. I have seen so many of my friends and people who I knew when I first moved to Fayetteville back in 1974. They were my friends then and there are my friends now. People who were at my wedding when I married Bill Clinton in 1975… Those who helped get him elected attorney general in 1976 and was a part of that first campaign for governor in 1978. And were there for the best of years and the worst of years." And she doesn't mean 1998's impeachment. She's talking about 1980 – the year Bill lost his re-election bid but daughter Chelsea was born at Little Rock's Baptist Hospital.

She talks about the great campaign of 1982 when Bill came into power again and she had the opportunity to serve this wonderful state.

Lots of Bill, Bill, Bill, who she knows is more loved here than her.

Hillary free styles with no notes and pivots elegantly to face every angle of the crowd.

She thanks her colleagues in the senate – Pryor and Lincoln. They work to make sure "the needs of Arkansas are front and center."

Huge praise for the Beebes. Maybe she's not jealous over Ginger Beebe's hard work.

She singles out former Senators Dale Bumpers and David Pryor and of course Bill for being leaders. "Each one of them set goals for Arkansas. They said we can do these things together."

I've lost track of time. I'm sucked into her speech already just by the sheer kiss-kisses she bestows to everyone. "When Vic Snyder showed the picture of his beautiful young son Penn that is what got me into politics and that is what keeps me in politics."

Okay gag.

9:00 p.m. Hillary recalls visiting every corner of Arkansas when she lived in the state. "I don't remember it being so ideological and partisan, I just remember people wanting to achieve things and make a difference in the lives of people. That is how Arkansas worked and that is the way America will work."

She's good. Really good. The crowd is mesmerized.

9.02 p.m. "Should we treat Democrat veterans different from Republican veterans? No," she says.

Now her favorite topic: Health insurance. She's determined to make health affordable for everyone if elected. When Hillary was a little girl, she believed America had goals. Kennedy wanted man to go the moon. Johnson believed in civil rights and voting rights.

"What are America's goals today?" she asks. "We can't continue to be a great country if we can't decide what we are aiming to achieve as a nation."


"I want to be a president who sets goals for America again …"

Huge applause.

More health care talk including 1992 when she failed on health care in Washington. "That didn't turn out too well," she says. "I still have the scars to show for it."

Talking about healthcare, she makes a lot of sense.

Yes she makes a lot of sense.

Hillary tells a story about a man from northern New York who called her a few years ago. He said he had worked hard, paid his insurance premiums and never needed health insurance.

Then his son was diagnosed with a rare disease. Only one place in America he could go. The insurance company said no. "What's the point of having this insurance if I can't save his life?" the man asked Hillary. "I don't think you should have to call your US senator to give your sick boy the care he needs."

End of topic statement: "When I am president we will have health insurance for every single American. That is a pledge."

Crowd erupts.

9.08 p.m. The topic: Foreign oil. "I sure would rather be thinking about the farmers in Arkansas when I fill up my tank instead of some folks across the ocean … who don't care about America."
Yep, Arkansas just might lead the nation in biofuel production.

"Global warming is real regardless of what the president and vice president say," Hillary says.

She sees a job market in global warming. This country can create jobs based on a new energy needs.

Isn't that what Al Gore said a million times in "An Inconvenient Truth?"

9.10 Education, her favorite topic. She mentions an interesting fact that some states plan on how many prison beds they will need by looking at third grade reading scores

Higher education must be affordable for everyone. Aye, aye.

9.14 p.m. Hillary still talking about working since she was 13. Her father told her if she wanted to go to law school that she had to figure out how to fund it herself. "I could borrow money from federal government at 2 percent. I didn't have to worry about being ripped off by financial aid officer or student loan operators."

She says that the Bush Administration is the most ill prepared to govern or indifferent to governing that the country has ever had. Hillary's foreshadowing? "We are going to find out a lot of stuff that we didn't even know."

What does she know that we don't? Inquiring minds want to know.

9.17. Hurricana Katrina equaled national disgrace. No better example than Katrina. "National disgrace." Shout out to former Clinton FEMA director James Lee Witt. He was more suited for "doing the job than the president of the Arabian Horse Association."

Okay, that was funny.

9.18 p.m. America's goodwill abroad is shot to hell. Along with the balance budget and surplus. This country has squandered everything away. Hillary the Gloom Merchant. But then again, maybe it's true. "We have alienated people who still are looking for leadership from the United States and not finding it," she says.

Damn she is really good. She is genuine. Not fake one iota. Or she has turned into a hell of an actress. But wait we know she can't act after seeing that Sopranos take-off video the other.

9.20 p.m. "We have to be willing to make the right decision to bring our troops home from that … civil war." She adds, "Our young men and women can not resolve this civil war for the Iraqis if they are unwilling to do what is necessary." Standing ovation.

9.22 p.m. "People say to me this next president is going to face a lot of problems. I'm going into this with my eyes wide open. I know how hard this job is. … of course I am excited to be running for the presidency of the United States." The woman issues? She says she is not running because she is a woman but because she is the most qualified to hit the ground running.

9.23 Hillary wraps up, ending with a story about Madeleine Albright was asked to go to Europe in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Everywhere she went she saw American flags. The flags only had 48 stars. Where did these flags come from? When the GIs liberated Europe, they handed these flags. They had kept these flags as family treasures. Why? They loved America and America's values. Someday they hoped to like like Americans.

"I want to be the president who restored that feeling about America around the world again," she says.

Standing ovation. No one sits down.

"I want to feel that way about ourselves again. We are a good and great nation. We can demonstrate it to us….and we can believe that tomorrow will truly be better than today. It can't happen unless we are committed."

"I think America is ready for change. I believe I am ready to lead. Arkansas runs deep in me today."

She did not just say that last part? Is someone going to play the song? Confession: I hope so. I love that song. They don't.

9.25 p.m. Hillary ends.

9.28 p.m. Arkansas delegation gets pics snapped with Hillary. People gather around the stage to create a makeshift rope line. That horrible Bon Jovi song blares. Please make it quit.

9.30 p.m. Hillary signs books, programs. Whew, new song. Country remix of "Life is a Highway." Aide Huma is right by her side. I inch closer. Up close Hillary looks good – perfect complexion, soft makeup, rested, not old.

9.33 p.m. Aide Huma says she won't sign any more books. Okay, come on this is Arkansas. We don't take no from a Clinton in Arkansas.

9.35 p.m. John Mellencamp again. Does he get royalties for this song played at political events? Hillary is laughing with old friends. The way people are crowded around her you would think Bill was in the house. Now Aide Huma snaps pictures of her boss with fans.

9.36 p.m. Is that Greg Hale on the stage with Robert McLarty? Thirty-something aides from the Clinton White House days. Hale worked for the Kerry campaign, too. Yes, they're working the event.

9.37 p.m. Pryor and Lincoln on stage, too, shaking hands.

9.40 p.m. Hillary still works the crowd. More country music. Some boot scootin' might break out. I need a drink.

9.41 p.m. Does Bill like it that Hillary is now the rock star in the family? There is some wine left in bottles on the tables. Could I have some?

9.44 p.m. The two Secret Service men with shaved heads move closely with Hillary. But not as close as Aide Huma. She'd take the bullet before they would.

9.45 p.m. Spotted Clinton Foundation executive director Stephanie Streett. A woman wearing a brown T-shirt with an aqua silk-screened Hillary signature walks past. Snazzy.

9.46 p.m. A man in a red, white and blue stars and striped shirt whoops and jumps when he gets Hillary's autograph. He's giddy.

9.48 p.m. Hillary. Still. Shaking. Hands.

9.53 p.m. Hillary has left the stage. Now she is surrounded on the floor by fans. Caterers break down tables. The unglam side of such events.

9.55 p.m. A TV reporter asks me to verify the man standing across the way is Mark Pryor. Yes, son of former senator David Pryor, I say. "That's the mistake I didn't want to make." Do reporters not do their homework anymore?

9.57 p.m. I'm very close to her. She scratches her head before getting her pic snapped. Again.

9.58 p.m. She has her back to me and another reporter, Andrew DeMillo from AP. Someone takes a pic of Hillary with a cell phone. Aide Huma has eyed us. Security is tight.
DeMillo is going for it. "Senator, senator."

"We have to keep walking," someone tells Hillary. Secret Service stops DeMillo.

9.59 p.m. Hillary is surrounded by some old friends. She is almost very close. Secret service blocks us. To her side, Rodney Slater.

10.02 p.m. She walks toward the exit. She is stopped by a woman with a baby. Photo op.

10.03 p.m. Hillary vanishes behind a black curtain. Good-bye.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Is the bloom off the Rose Law Firm?

Check out my latest story -- http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0607/4617.html-- at Politico.com.

Agree with the story? Disagree? Post your comments on the Politico page.