I n politics, theres nothing quite like a New York election. First, there are three geographically and psychologically distinct regions of the state: New York City with its five very different boroughs; Long Island and the other suburban counties; and upstate. There are large black and Hispanic populations, the nations largest population of Jewish Americans, plus well-organized groups of Indians, Pakistanis, Albanians, and just about any other ethnic group you can imagine. There is also a lot of diversity within New Yorks black and Hispanic populationsNew Yorks Hispanics include people from Puerto Rico and all the Caribbean nations, including more than 500,000 from the Dominican Republic alone..www.onescreen.cc.
My outreach to the ethnic communities was organized by Chris Hyland, a Georgetown classmate who lived in lower Manhattan, one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in America. When Hillary and I visited a group of elementary school students displaced by the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, we found children from eighty different national and ethnic groups. Chris started by buying about thirty ethnic newspapers and locating the leaders mentioned in them. After the primaries, he organized a fund-raiser in New York with 950 ethnic leaders, then moved to Little Rock to organize ethnic groups across the country, making an important contribution to victory in the general election, and laying the foundation for our continuing unprecedented contact with ethnic communities once we got to the White House..http://www.hopeonthestreet.co.uk.
The unions, especially the public employee groups, have a huge presence and are politically astute and effective. In New York City, the politics of the primary were further complicated by the fact that both party regulars and liberal reformers were active and often saw themselves at odds with each other. Gay-rights groups were organized and vocal about the need to do more about AIDS, which in 1992 still claimed more victims in America than any other country. The press was an ever-present cacophony of traditional newspapers, led by the New York Times, the tabloids, vigorous local TV stations, and talk radioall in hot competition for the latest story..cheap nike.
While the New York campaign didnt really begin until after the Connecticut primary, I had been working the state for months with the invaluable help and expert advice of Harold Ickes, the namesake and son of FDRs famous secretary of the interior. By 1992, we had been friends for more than twenty years. Harold is a thin, intense, brilliant, passionate, and occasionally profane man, a unique blend of liberal idealism and practical political skills. As a young man, hed worked as a cowboy out west and had been badly beaten working for civil rights in the South. In campaigns, he was a loyal friend and a ferocious opponent who believed in the power of politics to change lives. He knew the personalities, issues, and power struggles of New York like the back of his hand. If I was about to go through hell, I was at least making the trip with a man who stood a chance of getting me out alive..cheap nike.
In December 1991, Harold, who had already helped line up important support in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, arranged for me to speak to the Queens Democratic Committee. He suggested we ride the subway from Manhattan to the meeting. My being a country boy on the subway got more press coverage than my speech, but the appearance was important. Shortly afterward, the Queens Democratic chairman, Congressman Tom Manton, endorsed me. So did Queens congressman Floyd Flake, who was also the minister of Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church..moncler outlet.
In January, I visited a high school in Brooklyn to observe Martin Luther King Jr.s birthday with African-American congressman Ed Towns and the Brooklyn Democratic chair, Clarence Norman. The kids talked a lot about the problem of guns and knives in their school. They wanted a President who would make their lives safer. I went to a debate in the Bronx, moderated by the borough president, Fernando Ferrer, who would become a supporter. I took the ferry to Staten Island and campaigned there. In Manhattan, the borough president, Ruth Messinger, worked hard for me, as did her young aide, Marty Rouse, who helped me make inroads into the gay community. Victor and Sara Kovner convinced a number of the liberal reformers to support me and became good friends. Guillermo Linares, who was one of the first Dominicans elected to the city council, became one of the first prominent Latinos to endorse me. I campaigned on Long Island and in Westchester County, where I now live..www.ideafutura.co.uk.
The unions made a bigger difference in New York than in any previous primary. Among the largest and most active were the New York affiliates of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. After I appeared before its executive board, AFSCME was the first big union to endorse me. I had worked closely with AFSCME as governor, and had become a dues-paying member. But the real reason for the endorsement was that the unions president, Gerald McEntee, decided that he liked me and that I could win. McEntee was a good man to have on your side. He was effective, fiercely loyal, and didnt mind a tough fight. I also had the support of the United Transportation Union and, by the end of March, the Communications Workers of America and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. The teachers were helpful, even though I had not yet received a formal endorsement. In addition to the unions, I also had a strong group of business supporters, mobilized by Alan Patricot and Stan Schuman..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
The most important and enduring encounter I had with an ethnic group was with the Irish. Late one night, I met with the Irish Issues Forum organized by Bronx assemblyman John Dearie. Harold Ickes and New York City tax commissioner Carol OCleireacain had helped me prepare. The legendary Paul ODwyer, who was about eighty-five, and his son Brian were there, as were Niall ODowd, editor of the Irish Voice, journalist Jimmy Breslin, Queens comptroller Peter King, a Republican, and about a hundred other Irish activists. They wanted me to promise to appoint a special representative to push for an end to the violence in Northern Ireland on terms that were fair to the Catholic minority. I had also been encouraged to do this by Boston mayor Ray Flynn, an ardent Irish Catholic and a strong supporter of mine. I had been interested in the Irish issue since the Troubles began in 1968, when I was at Oxford. After a lengthy discussion, I said I would do it and that I would push for an end to discrimination against Northern Irelands Catholics in economics and other areas. Though I knew it would infuriate the British and strain our most important transatlantic alliance, I had become convinced that the United States, with its huge Irish diaspora, including people who funneled money to the Irish Republican Army, might be able to facilitate a breakthrough..www.sebby.cc.
Soon I put out a strong statement reaffirming my commitment, drafted by my foreign policy aide Nancy Soderberg. My law school classmate former congressman Bruce Morrison, of Connecticut, organized Irish-Americans for Clinton. The group would play a major role in the campaign and in the work we would do afterward. As Chelsea noted in her Stanford senior thesis on the Irish peace process, I first got involved in the Irish issue because of the politics of New York, but it became one of the great passions of my presidency..cartier love bracelet replica.
In an ordinary Democratic primary, a campaign with this kind of support would be assured an easy victory. But this was not an ordinary primary. First, there was the opposition. Jerry Brown was working like a demon, determined to rally the liberal voters in this last, best chance to stop my campaign. Paul Tsongas, encouraged by his showing in Connecticut, let it be known that he wouldnt mind his supporters voting for him one more time. The presidential candidate of the New Alliance Party, an articulate, angry woman named Lenora Fulani, did what she could to help them, bringing her supporters to a health-care event I held in a Harlem hospital and shouting down my speech..http://www.hopeonthestreet.co.uk.
Jesse Jackson practically moved to New York to help Brown. His most important contribution was to persuade Dennis Rivera, head of one of the citys largest and most active unions, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, not to endorse me and to help Jerry instead. Brown returned the favor by saying that, if nominated, he would name Jesse as his running mate. I thought Browns announcement would help him among New Yorks black voters, but it also galvanized a lot of new support for me in the Jewish community. Jackson was believed to be too close to Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, who was known for anti-Semitic remarks. Still, Jesses support was a net plus for Brown in New York..http://www.panchro.co.uk.
Then there was the media. The big papers had been camping out in Arkansas for weeks, looking for whatever they could find on my record and my personal life. The New York Times had started the ball rolling in early March with the first of its Whitewater stories. In 1978, Hillary and I, along with Jim and Susan McDougal, took out bank loans of more than $200,000 to invest in land along the White River in northwest Arkansas. Jim was a land developer whom I had met when he ran Senator Fulbrights office in Little Rock. We hoped to subdivide the property and sell it at a profit to retirees who had begun moving to the Ozarks in large numbers in the sixties and seventies. McDougal had been successful in all his previous land ventures, including one in which I had invested a few thousand dollars and earned a modest profit. Unfortunately, in the late seventies, interest rates went through the roof, the economy slowed, land sales dropped, and we lost money on the venture..http://www.sebby.cc.
By the time I became governor again in 1983, McDougal had bought a small savings-and-loan and named it Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. A few years later, he retained the Rose Law Firm to represent it. When the savings-and-loan crisis hit America, Madison was facing insolvency and sought to inject new cash into the operation by selling preferred stock and forming a subsidiary to provide brokerage services. To do this, McDougal had to get permission from the state securities commissioner, Beverly Bassett Schaffer, whom I had appointed. Beverly was a first-class lawyer, the sister of my friend Woody Bassett, and the wife of Archie Schaffer, Senator Dale Bumpers nephew..http://www.titelhelden.eu.
The Times article was one of a series of articles on Whitewater. The reporter questioned whether there was a conflict in Hillarys representing an entity regulated by the state. She had personally signed one letter to Commissioner Schaffer explaining the preferred stock proposal. The reporter also implied that Madison had received special treatment in getting its novel financing proposals approved and that Schaffer had not exercised appropriate oversight over the institution when it was failing..www.sigmund-freud.co.uk.
The facts did not support the accusations and innuendos. First, the financing proposals the commissioner approved were normal for the time, not novel. Second, as soon as an independent audit showed Madison to be insolvent, in 1987, Schaffer pushed federal regulators to shut it down, well before they were willing to do so. Third, Hillary had billed Madison for a grand total of twenty-one hours of legal work at the Rose Law Firm over a two-year period. Fourth, we never borrowed any money from Madison, but we did lose money on the Whitewater investment. Thats the essential Whitewater picture. The New York Times reporter clearly was talking to Sheffield Nelson and other adversaries of mine in Arkansas who would have been happy to create character problems in other areas besides the draft and Flowers. In this case, doing so required ignoring inconvenient facts and misrepresenting the record of a dedicated public servant like Schaffer.
The Washington Post weighed in with an article designed to show Id been too close to the poultry industry and had failed to stop it from spreading the waste from its chicken and hog operations onto farmland. A little animal waste made good fertilizer, but when the volume of waste was too great for the land to absorb, rain washed it into streams, polluting them so that they were unsafe for fishing and swimming. In 1990 the state Department of Pollution Control and Ecology found that more than 90 percent of the streams in northwest Arkansas, where the poultry industry was concentrated, were polluted. We spent several million dollars trying to correct the problem, and two years later, the Pollution Control people said over 50 percent of the streams met the standard for recreational use. I got the industry to agree to a set of best management practices to clean up the rest. I was criticized for not mandating an industry cleanupsomething easier said than done. The Democratic Congress could not do it; the agricultural interests had enough influence to get themselves completely exempted from federal regulations when Congress passed the Clean Water Act. Poultry was Arkansas biggest business and number one employer and very influential in the state legislature. Under the circumstances, I thought we had done a pretty good job, though it was the weakest spot in an otherwise solid environmental record. Both the Washington Post and the New York Times wound up doing articles on the subject, with the Post suggesting by late March that the Rose Law Firm had somehow gotten the state to go easy on the poultry industry.
I tried to keep things in perspective. The press had an obligation to examine the record of someone who might be President. Most reporters knew nothing about Arkansas or me when they started. Some of them had negative preconceptions about a poor, rural state and the people who lived there. I had also been identified as 1992s character problem candidate; that made the media vulnerable to whatever dirt they were handed to support the preconception.
Intellectually, I understood all this, and I remembered and appreciated the positive coverage I had received earlier in the campaign. Nevertheless, it felt more and more as if the investigative stories were being prepared on the basis of shoot first, ask questions later. Reading them felt like an out-of-body experience. The press seemed determined to prove that everyone who thought I was fit to be President was a fool: the Arkansas voters who had elected me five times; my fellow governors, who had voted me the most effective governor in the country; the education experts who had praised our reforms and progress; lifelong friends who were campaigning for me all over the country. In Arkansas, even my honest adversaries knew I worked hard and wouldnt take a nickel to see the cow jump over the moon. Now it seemed I had snookered all these people from the age of six on. At one point, when things got really bad in New York, Craig Smith told me he didnt read the papers anymore, because I dont recognize the person theyre talking about.
Near the end of March, Betsey Wright, who was at Harvard doing a stint at the Kennedy School, came to my rescue. She had worked hard for years to build our progressive record and to run a tight ethical operation. She had a prodigious memory, knew the records, and was more than willing to fight with reporters to set the record straight. When she moved into the headquarters as director of damage control, I felt much better. Betsey stopped a lot of factually incorrect stories, but she couldnt stop them all.
On March 26, the smoke seemed to clear a little when Senator Tom Harkin, the Communications Workers of America, and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union endorsed me. I was also helped when Governor Cuomo and New York senator Pat Moynihan criticized Jerry Browns 13 percent flat-tax proposal and said it would hurt New York. It was a rare day in the campaign; the news was dominated by people concerned with issues and their impact on peoples lives.
On March 29, I was back in the soup again, with a problem of my own making. Jerry Brown and I were in a televised candidates forum on WCBS in New York when a reporter asked me if I had ever tried marijuana at Oxford. This was the first time I had ever been asked that specific question directly. In Arkansas, when asked generally if I had ever used marijuana, I had given an evasive answer, saying I had never broken the drug laws of the United States. This time, I gave a more direct and answer: When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two and I didnt like it. I didnt inhale and I never tried it again.
Even Jerry Brown said the press should lay off because the issue wasnt relevant.
But the press had found another character issue. As for the didnt inhale remark, I was stating a fact, not trying to minimize what I had done, as I tried to explain until I was blue in the face. What I should have said was that I couldnt inhale. I had never smoked cigarettes, didnt inhale with the pipe I occasionally smoked at Oxford, and tried but failed to inhale the marijuana smoke. I dont know why I even mentioned it; maybe I thought I was being funny, or perhaps it was just a nervous reaction to a subject I didnt want to discuss. My account was corroborated by the respected English journalist Martin Walker, who later wrote an interesting and not altogether flattering book on my presidency, Clinton: The President They Deserve. Martin said publicly that hed been at Oxford with me and had seen me try but fail to inhale at a party. By then it was too late. My unfortunate account of my marijuana misadventures was cited by pundits and Republicans throughout 1992 as evidence of my character problem. And I had given late-night TV hosts fodder for years of jokes.
As the old country song goes, I didnt know whether to kill myself or go bowling. New York was suffering from severe economic and social problems. The Bush policies were making things worse. Yet every day seemed to be punctuated by television and print reporters shouting character questions at me. Radio talk-show host Don Imus called me a redneck bozo. When I went on Phil Donahues television show, all he did for twenty minutes was ask me questions about marital infidelity. After I gave my standard answer, he kept on asking. I rebuffed him and the audience cheered. He kept right on.
Whether I had a character problem or not, I sure had a reputation problem, one I had been promised by the White House more than six months earlier. Because the President is both the head of state and the Chief Executive of the government, he is in a sense the embodiment of peoples idea of America, so reputation is important. Presidents going back to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have guarded their reputations jealously: Washington, from criticism of his expense accounts during the Revolutionary War; Jefferson, from stories about his weakness for women. Before he became President, Abraham Lincoln suffered from debilitating episodes of depression. Once he was unable to leave his house for a whole month. If he had had to run under modern conditions, we might have been deprived of our greatest President.
Jefferson even wrote about the obligation of a Presidents associates to protect his reputation at all costs: When the accident of situation is to give us a place in history, for which nature had not prepared us by corresponding endowments, it is the duty of those about us carefully to veil from the public eye the weaknesses, and still more, the vices of our character. The veil had been ripped from my weaknesses and vices, both real and imagined. The public knew more about them than about my record, message, or whatever virtues I might have. If my reputation was in tatters, I might not be able to be elected no matter how much people agreed with what I wanted to do, or how well they thought I might do it.
In the face of all the character attacks, I responded as I always did when my back was against the wallI plowed on. In the last week of the campaign, the clouds began to lift. On April 1, during a meeting with President Bush at the White House, President Carter made a widely reported comment that he supported me. It couldnt have come at a better time. No one had ever questioned Carters character, and his reputation had continued to grow after he left the presidency, because of his good works at home and around the world. In one comment, he more than made up for the problems he had caused me during the Cuban refugee crisis in 1980.
On April 2, Jerry Brown was booed in a speech to the Jewish Community Relations Council in New York for suggesting Jesse Jackson as his running mate. Meanwhile, Hillary and I spoke to a large crowd at a midday rally on Wall Street. I got some boos, too, for referring to the eighties as a decade of greed and opposing a cut in the capital gains tax. After the speech, I worked the crowd, shaking hands with supporters and trying to convince the dissenters.
Meanwhile, we poured the whole campaign operation into the state. Besides Harold Ickes and Susan Thomases, Mickey Kantor was camped out in a hotel suite, joined by Carville, Stephanopoulos, Stan Greenberg, and Frank Greer and his partner, Mandy Grunwald. As always, Bruce Lindsey was with me. His wife, Bev, came up, too, to make sure all the public events were well planned and executed. Carol Willis organized a busload of black Arkansans to come to New York City to talk about what I had done as governor for and with blacks. Black ministers from home called counterparts in New York to ask for pulpit time for our people on the Sunday before the election. Lottie Shackleford, a Little Rock city director and Vice-Chair of the National Democratic Committee, spoke in five churches that Sunday. Those who knew me were putting a dent in the Reverend Jacksons efforts to bring a big majority of New Yorks black voters to Brown.
Some people in the press were coming around. Maybe the tide was turning; I even got a cordial reception on Don Imuss radio show. Newsday columnist Jimmy Breslin, who cared a lot about the Irish issue, wrote, Say what you want, but do not say that he quits. Pete Hamill, the New York Daily News columnist whose books Id read and enjoyed, said, Ive come to respect Bill Clinton. Its the late rounds and hes still there. The New York Times and the Daily News endorsed me. Amazingly, so did the New York Post, which had been more relentless in its attacks than any other paper. Its editorial said: It speaks strongly to his strength of character that he has already survived a battering by the press on personal questions unprecedented in the history of American politics. . . . He has continued to campaign with remarkable tenacity. . . . In our view, he has manifested extraordinary grace under pressure.
On April 5, we got good news from Puerto Rico, where 96 percent of the voters supported me. Then, on April 7, with a low turnout of about a million voters, I carried New York with 41 percent. Tsongas finished second with 29 percent, just ahead of Brown at 26 percent. A majority of African-Americans cast their ballots for me. That night I was battered and bloodied but elated. My one-sentence take on the campaign was a line from a gospel song Id heard in Anthony Manguns church: The darker the night, the sweeter the victory.
When I was doing research for this book, I read the account of the New York primary in The Comeback Kid by Charles Allen and Jonathan Portis. In it, the authors refer to something Levon Helm, the drummer for the Band and an Arkansas native, said in the great rock documentary The Last Waltz about what its like for a southern boy to come to New York hoping to make it into the big time: You just go in the first time and you get your ass kicked and you take off. Soon as it heals up, you come back and you try it again. Eventually, you fall right in love with it.
I didnt have the luxury of taking time off to heal, but I knew just how he felt. Like New Hampshire, New York had tested and taught me. And like Levon Helm, I had come to love it. After our rocky start, New York became one of my strongest states for the next eight years.
On April 7, we also won in Kansas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. On April 9, Paul Tsongas announced that he would not reenter the race. The fight for the nomination was effectively over. I had more than half the 2,145 delegates I needed to be nominated, and had only Jerry Brown to compete with the rest of the way in. But I was under no illusions about how badly damaged I had been, or how little I could do about it before the Democratic convention in July. I was also exhausted. I had lost my voice and put on a lot of weight, about thirty pounds. I had gained the weight in New Hampshire, most of it in the last month of the campaign, when I suffered from a flu bug that filled my chest with fluid at night so I couldnt sleep for more than an hour without waking to cough. I kept alert on adrenaline and Dunkin Donuts, and I had a bulging waistline to prove it. Harry Thomason bought me some new suits, so that I didnt look like a balloon about to burst.
After New York, I went home for a week to rest my voice, start getting back in shape, and think about how to get out of the hole I was in. While I was in Little Rock, I won the Virginia caucuses and received the endorsement of the leaders of the AFL-CIO. On April 24, the United Auto Workers endorsed me, and on April 28, I won a large majority in the Pennsylvania primary. Pennsylvania could have been tough. Governor Bob Casey, whom I admired for his tenacity in running three times before he won, had been very critical of me. He was strongly anti-abortion. As he struggled with his own life-threatening health problems, the issue became more and more important to him, and he had a hard time supporting pro-choice candidates. So did a lot of other pro-life Democrats in the state. Still, I always felt good about Pennsylvania. The western part of the state reminded me of north Arkansas. I related well to the people in Pittsburgh and in the smaller cities in the middle of the state. And I loved Philadelphia. I carried the state with 57 percent. More important, exit polls showed that more than 60 percent of the Democrats who voted thought I had the integrity to serve as President, up from 49 percent in the New York exit polls. The integrity number improved because I had had three weeks to run a positive issue-oriented campaign in a state that badly wanted to hear it.
The Pennsylvania victory was welcome, but overshadowed by the prospect of a formidable new challenger, H. Ross Perot. Perot was a Texas billionaire who had made his fortune with EDS, Electronic Data Systems, a company that did a lot of government work, including some for Arkansas. He had become nationally known when he financed and engineered the rescue of EDS employees from Iran after the fall of the Shah. He had a blunt but effective speaking style, and he was convincing a lot of Americans that, with his business acumen, financial independence, and penchant for bold action, he could do a better job of running the country than either President Bush or I.
By the end of April, several published polls had him running ahead of the President, with me in third place. I found Perot to be an interesting man and was fascinated by his phenomenal early popularity. If he entered the race, I thought his boom would play itself out, but I couldnt be sure. So I stuck to my knitting, picking up the endorsement of super delegatescurrent and former elected officials who had a guaranteed vote at the convention. One of the first super delegates to come out for me was Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia. Jay had been my friend since we sat together at governors meetings. And since New Hampshire, he had been giving me advice on health care, which he knew more about than I did.
On April 29, the day after the Pennsylvania vote, Los Angeles erupted in riots, after an all-white jury in neighboring Ventura County acquitted four white Los Angeles police officers of charges involving the beating of Rodney King, a black man, in March 1991. A bystander had videotaped the beating, and the tape had been released and shown on televisions across America. It looked as if King had offered no resistance when stopped, but was beaten brutally anyway.
The verdict inflamed the black community, which had long felt that the Los Angeles Police Department was riddled with racism. After a three-day rampage in South Central Los Angeles, more than 50 people were dead, more than 2,300 were injured, thousands of people had been arrested, and damages from looting and burning were estimated to be higher than $700 million.
On Sunday, May 3, I was in Los Angeles to speak to the Reverend Cecil Chip Murrays First AME Church about the need to heal our racial and economic rifts. And I toured the damaged areas with Maxine Waters, who represented South Central Los Angeles in Congress. Maxine was a smart, tough politician who had endorsed me early, despite her long friendship with Jesse Jackson. The streets looked like a war zone, full of burned and looted buildings. As we walked, I noticed a grocery store that appeared to be intact. When I asked Maxine about it, she said the store had been protected by people from the neighborhood, including gang members, because its owner, a white businessman named Ron Burkle, had been good to the community. He hired local people, all the employees were union members with health insurance, and the food was of the same quality as that in Beverly Hills groceries and sold at the same prices. At the time, that was unusual: because inner-city residents are less mobile, their stores often had inferior food at higher prices. I had met Burkle for the first time just a few hours earlier, and I resolved to get to know him better. He became one of my best friends and strongest supporters.
At a meeting in Maxines house, I listened as South Central residents related stories about their problems with the police, the tension between Korean-American merchants and their black customers, and the need for more jobs. I pledged to support initiatives to empower inner-city residents, by initiating enterprise zones to encourage private investment and community development banks to make loans to low- and moderate-income people. I learned a lot on the trip, and it got good press coverage. It also made an impression in the city that I cared enough to come before President Bush did. The lesson was not lost on perhaps the best politician in the talented Bush family: in 2002, President George W. Bush came to Los Angeles for the tenth anniversary of the riots.
During the rest of May, a series of primary victories added to my delegate total, including a 68 percent win in Arkansas on the twenty-sixth, rivaling the best Id ever done in a contested primary at home. Meanwhile, I campaigned in California, hoping to complete my fight for the nomination in Jerry Browns home state. I called for federal aid to make our schools safer and for an all-out effort to turn back the tide of AIDS in America. And I began the search for a vice-presidential nominee. I entrusted the vetting process to Warren Christopher, a Los Angeles lawyer who had been President Carters deputy secretary of state, and who had a well-deserved reputation for competence and discretion. In 1980, Chris had negotiated the release of our hostages in Iran. Sadly, their release was delayed until the day of President Reagans inauguration, proof that all leaders play politics, even in a theocracy.
Meanwhile, Ross Perots still-undeclared candidacy continued to gather steam. He resigned as chairman of his company and continued to rise in the polls. Just as I was about to wrap up the nomination, the papers were filled with headlines like Clinton Set to Clinch Nomination, but All Eyes Are on Perot, U.S. Primary Season Near End, Perot Man to Watch, and New Poll Shows Perot Leading Bush and Clinton. Perot was unburdened by President Bushs record or my primary battle scars. For the Republicans, he must have seemed a Frankensteins monster of their own making: a businessman who had slipped into the space created by their assault on me. For Democrats, he was also a bad dream, proof that the President could be defeated, but perhaps not by their wounded nominee.
On June 2, I won the primaries in Ohio, New Jersey, New Mexico, Alabama, Montana, and California, where I defeated Brown 48 to 40 percent. Finally, I had clinched the nomination. Of all the primary votes cast in 1992, I had received more than 10.3 million, or 52 percent. Brown got nearly 4 million votes, 20 percent; Tsongas received about 3.6 million, 18 percent; the rest were cast for the other candidates and those who voted for uncommitted delegates.
But the big story that night was the willingness of so many voters in both parties, according to exit polls, to desert their parties nominees to vote for Perot. It put a big damper on our celebration at the Los Angeles Biltmore. As Hillary and I watched the returns in my suite, even I was having trouble maintaining my congenital optimism. Not long before we were scheduled to go down to the ballroom to give a victory speech, Hillary and I had a visitorChevy Chase. Just as he had done on Long Island four years earlier, he showed up at a low moment to lift my spirits. This time, we were joined by his movie partner Goldie Hawn. By the time they finished making jokes about the absurd situation we were in, I was feeling better and ready to roll on.
Once again, press pundits said I was dead. Now Perot was the man to beat. A Reuters news service story captured the situation in one line: Bill Clinton, who struggled for months to avoid publicity about his personal life, Friday faced an even worse political cursebeing ignored. President Nixon predicted that Bush would beat Perot in a close race, with me a distant third.
Our campaign had to regain momentum. We decided to reach out to specific constituencies and the general public directly, and to keep pushing the issues. I went on Arsenio Halls late-night TV show, which was especially popular with younger viewers. I wore sunglasses and played Heartbreak Hotel and God Bless the Child on my sax. I answered viewers questions on Larry King Live. On June 11 and 12, the Democratic platform committee produced a draft that reflected my philosophy and campaign commitments, and avoided the polarizing language that had hurt us in the past.
On June 13, I appeared before the Reverend Jesse Jacksons Rainbow Coalition. At the outset, both Jesse and I saw it as an opportunity to bridge our differences and build a united front for the campaign. It didnt work out that way. The night before I spoke, the popular rap artist Sister Souljah addressed the coalition. She was a bright woman who could have an impact on young people. A month earlier, in an interview in the Washington Post after the Los Angeles riots, she had made some astounding comments: If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people? . . . So if youre a gang member and you would normally be killing somebody, why not kill a white person?
I suppose Sister Souljah thought she was simply expressing the anger and alienation of young blacks and telling them to stop killing one another. But thats not what she said. My staff, especially Paul Begala, argued that I had to say something about her remarks. Two of my most important core concerns were combating youth violence and healing the racial divide. After challenging white voters all across America to abandon racism, if I kept silent on Sister Souljah I might look weak or phony. Near the end of my talk, I said of her remarks, If you took the words white and black and reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech. . . . We have an obligation, all of us, to call attention to prejudice whenever we see it.
The political press reported my comments as a calculated attempt to appeal to moderate and conservative swing voters by standing up to a Democratic core constituency. Thats how Jesse Jackson saw it, too. He thought I had abused his hospitality to make a demagogic pitch to white voters. He said Sister Souljah was a fine person who had done community service work and I owed her an apology. And he threatened not to support me, even suggesting he might back Ross Perot. Actually, I had considered condemning Sister Souljahs remarks as soon as she made them, when I was in Los Angeles for a meeting of the Show Coalition, an entertainment group. In the end I didnt do it, because the Show Coalition event was for charity and I didnt want to politicize it. When the Rainbow Coalition brought us on virtually back to back, I decided I had to speak up.
At the time, I didnt really understand the rap culture. Over the years, Chelsea often told me it was full of highly intelligent but profoundly alienated young people and urged me to learn more about it. Finally, in 2001, she gave me six rap and hip-hop CDs and made me promise to listen to them. I did. While I still preferred jazz and rock, I enjoyed a lot of the music, and I saw that she was right about the intelligence, and the alienation. But I think I was right to speak out against Sister Souljahs apparent advocacy of race-based violence, and I believe most African-Americans agreed with what I said. Still, after Jesse criticized me, I resolved to try harder to reach out to inner-city young people who felt left out and left behind.
On June 18, I had my first meeting with Boris Yeltsin, who was in Washington to see President Bush. When foreign leaders visit another country, it is customary for them to meet with the leader of the political opposition. Yeltsin was polite and friendly, but slightly patronizing. I had been a big admirer of his since he stood up on a tank to oppose an attempted coup ten months earlier. On the other hand, he plainly preferred Bush and thought the President was going to be reelected. At the end of our talk, Yeltsin said I had a good future even if I didnt get elected this time. I thought he was the right man to lead postSoviet Russia, and I left the meeting convinced I could work with him if I succeeded in disappointing him about the outcome of the election.
I added a needed bit of levity to the campaign that week. Vice President Dan Quayle said he intended to be the pit bull terrier of the election campaign. When asked about it, I said Quayles claim would strike terror into the heart of every fire hydrant in America.
On June 23, I turned serious again, reissuing my economic plan with minor revisions based on the latest government report that the deficit would be larger than previously estimated. It was risky, because in order to keep my pledge to cut the deficit in half in four years, I had to trim the middle-class tax-cut proposal. The Republicans on Wall Street didnt like the plan either, because I proposed to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations; both were paying a much smaller percentage of the total tax load after twelve years of Reagan and Bush. We couldnt cut the deficit in half with spending cuts only, and I felt that those who had benefited most in the 1980s should pay half the cost. And I was determined not to fall into the rosy scenarios trap the Republicans had followed for twelve years, in which they constantly overestimated revenues and underestimated outlays in order to avoid hard choices. The revised economic plan was put together under the supervision of my new economic policy aide, Gene Sperling, who had left the staff of Governor Mario Cuomo in May to join the campaign. He was brilliant, rarely slept, and worked like a demon.
By the end of June, the vigorous public outreach and policy efforts were beginning to show results. A June 20 poll had the race a three-way dead heat. It wasnt all my doing. Perot and President Bush were engaged in a bitter, highly personal argument. There was plainly no love lost between the two Texans, and there were some bizarre elements to their spat, including Perots strange claim that Bush had conspired to disrupt his daughters wedding.
While Perot was fighting with Bush over his daughter, I took a day away from the campaign to pick Chelsea up at the end of her annual trip to northern Minnesota for a German-language summer camp. Chelsea started pushing to go to camp when she was only five, saying she wanted to see the world and have adventures. The Concordia Language Camps in Minnesotas lake country featured several villages that were replicas of those in the countries whose languages were being taught. When the young people checked in, they got new names and some foreign currency, then spent the next two or four weeks speaking the language of the village. Concordia had villages speaking the Western European and Scandinavian languages, as well as Chinese and Japanese. Chelsea chose the German camp and went every summer for several years. It was a wonderful experience and an important part of her childhood.
I spent the first weeks of July picking a running mate. After exhaustive research, Warren Christopher recommended I consider Senator Bob Kerrey; Senator Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania, who had worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and in President Kennedys White House; Congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the highly respected chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Senator Bob Graham of Florida, with whom Id become friends when we served as governors together; and Senator Al Gore of Tennessee. I liked them all. Kerrey and I had worked together as governors, and I didnt hold the tough things he had said in the campaign against him. He was a figure who could attract Republican and independent voters. Wofford was a deeply moral advocate of health-care reform and civil rights. He also had a good relationship with Governor Bob Casey, which could ensure my winning Pennsylvania. Hamilton was impressive for his knowledge of foreign affairs and his strength in a conservative district in southeastern Indiana. Graham was one of the three or four best governors of the 150 or so I served with over twelve years, and he would almost certainly bring Florida into the Democratic column for the first time since 1976.
In the end, I decided to ask Al Gore. At first, I didnt think I would. On our previous encounters, the chemistry between us had been correct but not warm. His selection defied the conventional wisdom that the vice-presidential candidate should provide political and geographic balance: We were from neighboring states. He was even younger than I was. And he, too, was identified with the New Democrat wing of the party. I believed his selection would work precisely because it didnt have the traditional kind of balance. It would present America with a new generation of leadership and prove I was serious about taking the party and the country in a different direction. I also thought his selection would be good politics in Tennessee, the South, and other swing states.
Moreover, Al would provide balance in a far more important way: He knew things I didnt. I knew a lot about economics, agriculture, crime, welfare, education, and health care, and had a good grasp of the major foreign policy issues. Al was an expert on national security, arms control, information technology, energy, and the environment. He was one of ten Senate Democrats to support President Bush in the first Gulf War. He had attended the global biodiversity conference in Rio de Janeiro, and strongly disagreed with President Bushs decision not to support the treaty that came out of it. He had recently written a best-selling book, Earth in the Balance, arguing that problems like global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer, and the destruction of rain forests required a radical reorientation of our relationship to the environment. He had given me an autographed copy of the book the previous April. I read it, learned a lot, and agreed with his argument. Besides knowing more about subjects that wed have to deal with if elected, Al understood Congress and the Washington culture far better than I did. Most important, I thought he would be a good President if something happened to me, and I thought hed have an excellent chance to be elected after I finished.
I set up shop in a Washington hotel to meet with a few people I was considering. Al came over late one night, at eleven, to minimize the chance of being seen by the press. The hour was more comfortable for me than for him, but he was alert and in good spirits. We talked for two hours about the country, the campaign, and our families. He was obviously devoted to and proud of Tipper and his four children. Tipper was an interesting person, an accomplished woman who had become famous for her campaign against violent and vulgar lyrics in contemporary music, and who had a passionate and well-informed interest in improving mental-health care. After our talk, I liked him and was convinced that he, and Tipper, would be a big addition to our campaign.
On July 8, I called Al and asked him to be my running mate. The next day, he and his family flew to Little Rock for the announcement. The picture of all of us standing together on the back porch of the Governors Mansion was big news across the nation. Even more than the words we spoke, it conveyed the energy and enthusiasm of young leaders committed to positive change. The next day, after Al and I went for a jog in Little Rock, we flew to his hometown, Carthage, Tennessee, for a rally and a visit with his parents, both of whom had a large influence on him. Al Gore Sr. had been a three-term U.S. senator, a supporter of civil rights, and an opponent of the Vietnam War, positions that helped to defeat him in 1970 but that also ensured him an honored place in American history. Als mother, Pauline, was equally impressive. When it was rare for women to do so, she had graduated from law school and then briefly practiced law in southwest Arkansas.
On July 11, Hillary, Chelsea, and I flew to New York for the Democratic convention. We had had a good five weeks, while Bush and Perot fought with each other. For the first time, some polls showed me in the lead. With four nights of television coverage, the convention would either strengthen our position or undermine it. In 1972 and 1980, Democrats had been crippled by showing the American people a divided, dispirited, undisciplined party. I was determined not to let that happen again. So was DNC chairman Ron Brown. Harold Ickes and Alexis Herman, Rons deputy and the CEO of the convention, took charge of our operation to make sure we showcased unity, new ideas, and new leaders. It didnt hurt that rank-and-file Democrats were desperate to win after twelve years of Republican control of the White House. Still, we had plenty to do to pull the party together and project a more positive image. For example, our research showed that most Americans didnt know that Hillary and I had a child, and thought I had grown up in wealth and privilege.
Conventions are heady affairs for the nominee. This one was especially so. After months of being told I was lower than a snakes belly, I was now being held up as a paragon of all things good and true. In New Hampshire and afterward, with all the character attacks, I had to fight to keep my temper in check and minimize my tendency to whine when exhausted. Now I had to rein in my ego and remember not to get carried away by all the praise and positive press.
As the convention opened, we were making good progress on party unity. Tom Harkin had endorsed me earlier. Now Bob Kerrey, Paul Tsongas, and Doug Wilder made supportive comments. So did Jesse Jackson. Only Jerry Brown held out. Harkin, who had become one of my favorite politicians, said Jerry was on an ego trip. There was also a minor flap when Ron Brown refused to let Governor Bob Casey speak to the convention, not because he wanted to speak against abortion but because he wouldnt agree to endorse me. I was inclined to let Casey talk, because I liked him, respected the convictions of pro-life Democrats, and thought we could get a lot of them to vote for us on other issues and on my pledge to make abortion safe, legal, and rare. But Ron was adamant. We could disagree on the issues, he said, but no one should get the microphone who wasnt committed to victory in November. I respected the discipline with which he had rebuilt our party, and I deferred to his judgment.
The opening night of the convention featured seven of our women candidates for the U.S. Senate. Hillary and Tipper also made brief appearances. Then came the keynote speeches by Senator Bill Bradley, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and Governor Zell Miller. Bradley and Jordan were more famous and gave good talks, but Miller brought the audience to tears with this story:
My father, who was a teacher, died when I was two weeks old, leaving a young widow with two small children. But with my mothers faith in Godand Mr. Roosevelts voice on the radiowe kept going. After my fathers death, my mother with her own hands cleared a small piece of rugged land. Every day she waded into a neighbors cold mountain creek, carrying out thousands of smooth stones to build a house. I grew up watching my mother complete that house from the rocks shed lifted from the creek and cement she mixed in a wheelbarrowcement that today still bears her handprints. Her son bears her handprints, too. She pressed her pride and her hopes and her dreams deep into my soul. So, you see, I know what Dan Quayle means when he says its best for children to have two parents. You bet it is. And it would be good if they could all have trust funds, too. We cant all be born rich, handsome, and lucky. And thats why we have a Democratic Party.
He then extolled the contributions of every Democratic President from FDR through Carter, and said we believed government could improve education, human rights, civil rights, economic and social opportunity, and the environment. He attacked Republicans for policies favoring the wealthy and special-interest groups, and supported my plans on the economy, education, health care, crime, and welfare reform. It was a strong New Democrat message, exactly what I wanted the country to hear. When Zell Miller was elected to the Senate in 2000, Georgia had become more conservative and so had he. He became one of President Bushs strongest supporters, voting for huge tax cuts that exploded the deficits and disproportionately benefited the wealthiest Americans, and budgets that threw poor children out of after-school programs, unemployed workers out of job training, and uniformed police off the streets. I dont know what caused Zell to change his views on what was best for America, but I will always remember what he did for me, the Democrats, and America in 1992.
The second day featured a presentation of the platform, and strong speeches by President Carter, Tom Harkin, and Jesse Jackson. When Jesse decided to support me, he went all the way, with a barn burner that brought the house down. However, the most emotional part of the evening was devoted to health care. Senator Jay Rockefeller talked about the need for health insurance for all Americans. His point was illustrated by my New Hampshire friends Ron and Rhonda Machos, who were by then expecting their second child and were saddled with $100,000 in medical bills from little Ronnies open-heart surgery. They said they felt like second-class citizens, but they knew me and I was their best hope for the future.
Two of the featured health-care speakers were people with AIDS: Bob Hattoy and Elizabeth Glaser. I wanted them to bring the reality of a problem too long ignored by politicians into Americas living rooms. Bob was a gay man who worked for me. He said, I dont want to die. But I dont want to live in an America where the President sees me as the enemy. I can face dying because of a disease, but not because of politics. Elizabeth Glaser was a beautiful, intelligent woman, the wife of Paul Michael Glaser, who had starred in the successful TV series Starsky and Hutch. She had been infected when she hemorrhaged during the birth of her first child and received a transfusion contaminated with the virus. She passed it on to her daughter through her breast milk and to her next child, a son, in utero. By the time she spoke to the convention, Elizabeth had founded the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, lobbied hard for more money for research and care, and lost her daughter, Ariel, to AIDS. She wanted a President who would do more about it. Not long after I was elected, Elizabeth, too, lost her fight with AIDS. It was heartbreaking to Hillary, me, and countless others who loved her and followed her lead. I am thankful that her son, Jake, survives, and that his father and Elizabeths friends have carried on her work.
By the third day of the convention, a national poll showed me in first place, with a double-digit lead over President Bush. I started the morning with a jog in Central Park. Then Hillary, Chelsea, and I had a real treat when Nelson Mandela came to our suite for a visit. He was the convention guest of Mayor David Dinkins. Properly, he said he wasnt taking sides in the election, but he expressed appreciation for the Democrats long opposition to apartheid. Mandela wanted the United Nations to send a special envoy to investigate an outbreak of violence in South Africa, and I said I would support his request. His visit was the beginning of a great friendship for all of us. Mandela plainly liked Hillary, and I was really struck by the attention he paid to Chelsea. In the eight years I was in the White House, he never talked to me without asking about her. Once, during a phone conversation, he asked to speak to her, too. Ive seen him show the same sensitivity to children, black and white, who crossed his path in South Africa. It speaks to his fundamental greatness.
Wednesday was a big night at the convention, with rousing speeches by Bob Kerrey and Ted Kennedy. There was a moving film tribute to Robert Kennedy, introduced by his son, Congressman Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. Then Jerry Brown and Paul Tsongas spoke. Jerry bashed President Bush. So did Paul Tsongas, but he spoke up for Al Gore and me, too. After all hed been through, it was a brave and classy thing to do.
Then came the big moment: Mario Cuomos nominating speech. He was still our partys best orator, and he didnt disappoint. With lofty rhetoric, stinging rebukes, and well-reasoned arguments, Cuomo made the case that it was time for someone smart enough to know; strong enough to do; sure enough to lead: the Comeback Kid, a new voice for a new America. After Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Congressman Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma, my other nominators, spoke, the roll was called.
Alabama passed to Arkansas so that my home state could cast the first votes. Our Democratic chair, George Jernigan, who had run against me for attorney general sixteen years earlier, gave the honor to another Clinton delegate. Then my mother simply said, Arkansas proudly casts our forty-eight votes for our favorite son and my son, Bill Clinton. I wondered what Mother was thinking and feeling, beyond her bursting pride; whether her mind wandered back forty-six years, to the twenty-three-year-old widow who gave me life, or back over all the troubles she had borne with a bright smile to give me and my brother as normal a life as possible. I loved watching her and was grateful that someone had thought to let her start the tide rolling.
As the roll call continued, Hillary, Chelsea, and I were making our way to Madison Square Garden from our hotel and stopped inside Macys department store, where we gathered to watch the voting on television. When Ohio cast 144 votes for me, I crossed the majority threshold of 2,145 and was finally the official Democratic nominee. During the demonstration that followed, the three of us walked onto the stage. I was the first candidate to come to the convention before the night of my acceptance speech since John Kennedy did it in 1960. In brief remarks, I said, Thirty-two years ago another young candidate who wanted to get the country moving again came to the convention to say a simple thank you. I wanted to identify with the spirit of John Kennedys campaign, to thank my nominators and the delegates, and to tell you that tomorrow night I will be the Comeback Kid.
Thursday, July 16, was the final day of the convention. So far, we had had three great days, in the hall and on television. We had showcased not only our national leaders but also our rising stars, as well as ordinary citizens. We had hammered home our new ideas. But it would all count for nothing unless Al Gore and I were effective in our acceptance speeches. The day began with a surprise, as had so many days in this wild campaign season: Ross Perot withdrew from the race. I called him, congratulated him on his campaign, and said I agreed with him on the need for fundamental political reform. He declined to endorse either President Bush or me, and I went into the conventions last night unsure whether his withdrawal would help or hurt.
After Al Gore was nominated by acclamation, he gave a rip-roaring speech, which he began by saying hed dreamed as a boy growing up in Tennessee that he would, one day, be the warm-up act for Elvis, the nickname the staff gave me during the campaign. Al then launched into a litany of the Bush administrations failings, saying after each one, Its time for them to go. After he did it a couple of times, the delegates took over for him, sending sparks throughout the hall. Then he extolled my record, outlined the challenges we faced, and talked about his family and our obligation to leave a stronger, more united nation to the next generation. Al had given a really good speech. He had done his part. Now it was my turn.
Paul Begala wrote the first draft of the speech. We were trying to do a lot with itbiography, campaign rhetoric, and policy. And we were trying to appeal to three different groupshard-core Democrats, independents and Republicans dissatisfied with the President but unsure of me, and people who didnt vote at all because they didnt think it made a difference. Paul, as always, had some great lines. And George Stephanopoulos had kept notes of the ones that had worked best on the stump during the primary campaign. Bruce Reed and Al From helped sharpen the policy section. To bring me on, my friends Harry and Linda Bloodworth Thomason produced a short film entitled The Man from Hope. It pumped the crowd up, and I walked onto the platform to tremendous applause.
The speech started slowly, with a bow to Al Gore, thanks to Mario Cuomo, and a salute to my primary opponents. Then came the message: In the name of all those who do the work and pay the taxes, raise the kids and play by the rules, in the name of the hardworking Americans who make up our forgotten middle class, I proudly accept your nomination for President of the United States. I am a product of that middle class, and when I am President, you will be forgotten no more.
Next, I told the story of the people who had had the greatest impact on me, beginning with my mother, from her travails as a young widow with a baby to support to her current struggle with breast cancer, saying, Always, always, always she taught me to fight. I talked about my grandfather and how he taught me to look up to people other folks looked down on. And I paid tribute to Hillary for teaching me that all children can learn and that each of us has a duty to help them do it. I wanted America to know that my fighting spirit started with my mother, my commitment to racial equality started with my grandfather, and my concern for the future of all our children started with my wife.
And I wanted people to know that everybody could be part of our American family: I want to say something to every child in America tonight who is out there trying to grow up without a mother or father: I know how you feel. You are special too. You matter to America. And dont ever let anybody tell you you cant become whatever you want to be.
For the next several minutes, I laid out my critique of the Bush record and my plan to do better. We have gone from first to thirteenth in the world in wages since Reagan and Bush took office. . . . Four years ago he promised 15 million new jobs by this time, and hes over 14 million short. . . . The incumbent President says unemployment always goes up a little before a recovery begins, but unemployment only has to go up one more person before a real recovery can begin. And Mr. President, you are that man. I said my New Covenant of opportunity, responsibility, and community would give us an America in which the doors of college are thrown open again to the sons and daughters of stenographers and steelworkers, an America in which middle-class incomes, not middle-class taxes, are going up, an America in which the rich are not soaked, but the middle class is not drowned either, an America where we end welfare as we know it.
Then I made an appeal for national unity. To me, it was the most important part of the speech, something I had believed in since I was a little boy:
Tonight every one of you knows deep in your heart that we are too divided. It is time to heal America.
And so we must say to every American: Look beyond the stereotypes that blind us. We need each other. All of us, we need each other. We dont have a person to waste. And yet for too long politicians have told most of us that are doing all right that whats really wrong with America is the rest of us. Them.
Them, the minorities. Them, the liberals. Them, the poor, them, the homeless, them, the people with disabilities. Them, the gays.
Weve gotten to where weve nearly themed ourselves to death. Them and them and them.
But this is America. There is no them; there is only us. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
That is our Pledge of Allegiance and thats what the New Covenant is all about. . . .
As a teenager I heard John Kennedys summons to citizenship. And then, as a student at Georgetown, I heard that call clarified by a professor named Carroll Quigley, who said to us that America was the greatest nation in history because our people had always believed in two great ideas: that tomorrow can be better than today, and that every one of us has a personal, moral responsibility to make it so.
That kind of future entered my life the night our daughter, Chelsea, was born. As I stood in that delivery room, I was overcome with the thought that God had given me a blessing my own father never knew: the chance to hold my child in my arms.
Somewhere at this very moment, a child is being born in America. Let it be our cause to give that child a happy home, a healthy family, and a hopeful future. Let it be our cause to see that that child has a chance to live to the fullest of her God-given capacities. . . . Let it be our cause that we give this child a country that is coming together, not coming aparta country of boundless hopes and endless dreams; a country that once again lifts its people and inspires the world.
Let that be our cause, our commitment, and our New Covenant.
My fellow Americans, I end tonight where it all began for me: I still believe in a place called Hope. God bless you and God bless America.
When my speech was over and the applause had died down, the convention ended with a song written for the occasion by Arthur Hamilton and my old friend and fellow high-school musician Randy Goodrum, Circle of Friends. It was sung by the Broadway star Jennifer Holiday, backed by the Philander Smith College Choir from Little Rock; ten-year-old Reggie Jackson, who had wowed the convention Monday night singing America the Beautiful; and my brother, Roger. Before long they had us all singing Lets join a circle of friends, one that begins and never ends.
It was a perfect end to the most important speech Id ever delivered. And it worked. We were widening the circle. Three different polls showed my message had strongly resonated with the voters, and we had a big lead, of twenty or more points. But I knew we couldnt hold that margin. For one thing, the Republican cultural base of white voters with a deep reluctance to vote for any Democratic presidential candidate was about 45 percent of the electorate. Also, the Republicans had not held their convention yet. It was sure to give President Bush a boost. Finally, Id just had six weeks of good press coverage and a week of direct, completely positive access to America. It was more than enough to push all the doubts about me into the recesses of public consciousness, but, as I well knew, not enough to erase them.