"I am great to be here ... I mean, glad to be here." ... Bill Clinton, introductory statement.
The Comet stepped in line directly in front of the gymnasium on Washington & Jefferson University campus -- facing the opposite direction.
In front of us, the line stretched down past our sight horizon, looped around, and came back again to the front entrance. Behind us, the line took a right turn and faded over yet another horizon.
Those in attendance sported just a modest amount of Hillary paraphernalia; the mood was one of great interest but generally not of much excitement. Someone carried a sign that read, "McCain Supporters for Hillary Clinton in April!" Behind us was another clique of Republicans. Who knows how many at the rally these accounted for?
The smallish basketball arena eventually filled to capacity, including standing-room only space on the court itself. One homemade sign read, "Hey Mista, Vote 4 My Sista." Another read, "It's About Time", with the female symbol as the I in "time." American Girl played over the loudspeaker.
The harshest negative swipe of the afternoon's program was issued by the Vice Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, who gave one of four introductions. His long speech was peppered with "Doesn't America deserve a president who..." rhetorical questions, and he slid in, "Doesn't America deserve a president who doesn't need Oprah Winfrey to pay his bills?"
At length, the former president took the stage.
Bill Clinton is still very tall -- generally huge in nature. If everybody in that gymnasium were just meeting for the first time, as total strangers, and if for some reason we needed to elect a leader, we would surely have turned to Bill Clinton.
Due to some loud applause, we did not catch exactly what song played him on -- it sounded a lot like If the House is a Rockin', Don't Bother Knockin', but that could not possibly have been it. Could it?
Don't. Stop. Thinking about tomorrow.
Don't. Stop. It'll soon be here.
It'll be here, and better than before.
Yesterday's gone. Yesterday's gone.
Ooooh, don't you look back.
The Comet was really hoping to hear that again, but we suppose we understand.
The theme of these rallies is Solutions for America, and Hillary Clinton seems to be prescribing five of them.
1. Stop giving money away to the top 10%. He didn't spend much time on this one. Pretty self-explanatory.
2. Energy independence, which also provides jobs. As in, can you imagine if you changed every light bulb and altered every heating and cooling system in this building? Not only would we be protecting the planet and shoring up our national security, but we'd be providing work for all kinds of architects, engineers, technicians and laborers. Think public works.
3. Health Care for All. This was the only time in which "Hillary's opponent" was called into question directly. Senator Clinton thinks "It's time to stop making excuses." Bill asked how many people in the auditorium know someone without insurance; everybody raised their hands. He pointed out that we are the only wealthy country in the world for whom that is true.
4. Increased access to secondary education. Clinton 44 would raise the level of Pell Grants every year. She would also do something about exploitative student loan practices, which drew the greatest applause of the afternoon.
5. A Balanced Budget. This is "one issue on which Hillary is more conservative than George Bush." He spoke at length on how difficult it is to be tough on other countries, diplomatically, when we need those other countries to loan us money constantly.
"Hillary does believe the time has come to bring us home from Iraq." [Applause]. "So her position is -- look what America has done!"
Former President Clinton started ticking off the list of accomplishments -- removing the tyrant Saddam Hussein from power, getting the Iraqis to ratify their new constitution, electing leaders, et cetera et cetera.
However, five years in and with stretched deployments, the time has come to pressure the Iraqis to make "the tough decisions" about oil revenues and long-term power sharing. Telling the Iraqis we may be around for a hundred years is counterproductive towards these ends.
"Think about it -- do you make decisions before you have to?"
Bill Clinton did not respond directly to Barack Obama's counter-attacks as specifically as we had hoped he might -- with one exception. Clinton characterized Obama as saying that "if you did good things in the 1990's, you should be disqualified" from leading the country in the coming decade.
Clinton went on to say that "if somebody did more good things through the 90's and prevented more bad things from happening, I think that's an argument that that person should be president!"
He then took us briefly through Hillary Clinton's career. After law school, "she took a low-paying job with Children's Defense Fund, and knocked on the doors of poor people's houses." Several other organizations and initiatives were listed.
Since arriving in the Senate, she has passed legislation for education reform, body armor, veterans benefits, and health care for 9/11 first responders -- often with Republican cosponsors. Although nobody thought the Republicans would let her get anywhere, she proved them wrong.
In other words, she's more than a former first lady.
Bill Clinton says that we, Pennsylvanians, represent the tipping point for America's future.
(We bet he says that to all the states.)
His work at W & J done, and his next campaign stop scheduled in barely ten minutes, Clinton was played off stage to A Little Less Conversation by Elvis Presley.