Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Vaunted Clinton Political Machine: A True Story

Attention, sports fans! I wrote about this the very day it happened. It's not plagarism to steal from yourself, but if anyone remembers the original column, I'm flattered.

On a March Tuesday in 1992, I was attending a spring training game between the Red Sox and Astros in Kissimmee, Florida. So was Bill Clinton, not yet President of the United States.

Clinton was campaigning up a storm before the game. He did everything but climb the screen behind home plate to shake hands. In his brief remarks (well, brief for him) before the first pitch, Clinton confessed to the crowd that as a boy in Arkansas, he'd always rooted for the Astros.

My ears perked. Clinton was 16 the year the then-Colt .45s had played their first game. I gently hacked my way through the throng of useless national political reporters and sought out a campaign aide.

"Excuse me," I asked the genial chap, whose name was Paul Begala (I mispelled it in the column, shame on me). "But I always thought Arkansas folks were Cardinals fans."

Don't what I expected to hear in response. Maybe something along the lines of a Democrat having a natural fondness for newborn underdogs. But it sure wasn't what I did hear.

With an unattractive smile, Begala said, "you know, there are a lot more voters in Texas than in Missouri."

It's a wicked world, and I had been a reporter for over a decade, but, frankly, my jaw dropped, not from admiration, either. Bad enough that any candidate for president was deranged enough to lie about what baseball team he had rooted for as a kid. Worse, by far, was the idea that his campaign was so fucking stupid as to brag about doing so TO A SPORTSWRITER.

I voted for Clinton in two general elections, and for a psychopath, I don't think he was a bad President. But I never believed a word he said, and I can't believe his wife, who had a more awful exposure to the downside of his techniques than anyone else, still thinks they're smart politics. I have the same grudging respect for Sen. Clinton as I did for her husband, and if I was in the market for a compromising, cautious leader (there are worse things), I'd support her.

Trust her? Never.


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