Hillary Clinton was amused by Bill Clinton’s answer to one of moderator Danny Eaton’s questions. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)
Former first couple talk about the campaign, Trump and the future in Irving event
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke at the Pavillion at the Toyota Music Factory in Irving on Friday, Nov. 17, in what they described as a first-of-its-kind event. Hillary Clinton explained that she and her husband had never appeared on stage together to just have a conversation as they were doing that night. They repeated the event the next night in Little Rock.
Danny Eaton, chief operating officer of Live Nation Dallas, asked questions that were submitted ahead of time. But the one topic avoided during the evening was the current sex abuse scandals involving Hollywood bigwigs and politicians.
The impression I got from the chat is that the Clintons are closer now than they’ve ever been. Bill Clinton was there for his wife when she needed him most, after her election defeat in November 2016, and they seemed to truly enjoy being together on stage. I’m not sure why that surprised me; they’ve always had a strong marriage no matter what happened. Whenever troubles have been thrown at them, they’ve grown closer.
Asked about what each would do if they could add one more goal, Bill Clinton said, “So much to do. So little time.” After thinking about it, he added, “Roll back the tide of climate change.”
In what was a recurring theme for the evening, Bill Clinton was ready to talk about his legacy, but Hillary Clinton is still busy working on hers.
When she said, “There are so many things I’d like to do, but I’d start by abolishing the Electoral College,” she got a standing ovation. She followed that with, “And then maybe run — a marathon, not an election.”
Asked if he would have served a third term if he could, Bill Clinton said his old answer was that he would have. His current answer is, “No, I’d rather have Hillary do it.”
Throughout the evening, questions came up about Donald Trump. Some of the former first couple’s answers were indirect, and at other times they directly attacked the incumbent president, At one point, though, Bill Clinton made it clear he knew Trump well: They golfed together many times, which is not surprising, because until he decided to run for office, Trump was a Democrat.
Referring to Trump’s apparent obsession with building a wall along the U.S./Mexico border, Bill Clinton said, “You can build a wall, but you can’t keep out the Internet. Weapons will get over a wall.”
A better approach, he suggested, would be to figure out how to live together.
Hillary Clinton addressed Trump’s presidency in a more general way. “Leadership counts,” she said. “What we’ve seen is setting us back. We need to shelve the pants-on-fire approach and [the] ideological prejudices.” She called the current tax reform bill a “budget-busting giveaway to the richest” Americans.
Both Clintons said they admire Nelson Mandela and the leadership he demonstrated throughout his life. “He cared enough that he spent 27 years in confinement and then purged his heart of hatred,” Bill Clinton said of the late South African president, adding that whenever Mandela called the White House, he asked to speak to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s then-teenaged daughter Chelsea when he was done speaking to the president.
As president of South Africa, Mandela “invited those who beat and killed his friends into the government,” Bill Clinton said, quoting Mandela as having said, “They couldn’t take my mind and my heart.”
And, in another oblique swipe at Trump, Bill Clinton said, “A real leader is always looking for the good in people.”
Asked about former FBI Director James Comey, Hillary Clinton expressed exasperation that when members of Congress asked him why he didn’t release any information about the ongoing Russia investigation, Comey told them that it was too close to the election.
“A foreign adversary attacked us, and there were no consequences,” she said, calling it a threat to America’s democracy and national security.
Then, just weeks before the election, Comey told Congress he was looking into her emails again when there was, in fact, no new information to consider. “I’m still scratching my had about that one,” Hillary Clinton said on Friday.
Referring to Trump’s comment, during his recent trip to Asia, that when he asked Russian President Putin about tampering with the U.S. election in 2016, “he said he didn’t do it,” Hillary Clinton suggested that either Trump is that naïve or any other answer wouldn’t be good for the Trump brand.
She also pointed out that although Congress has passed sanctions against Russia, Trump hasn’t implemented them. “That’s a violation of his oath of office,” she declared, in what was the closest either she or her husband came to calling for Trump to be impeached.
While not referring directly to Trump, Bill Clinton said, “Every authoritarian needs an ‘enemy’ [to fight against]. The goal is to make you give up on democracy.” He said that
Trump’s constant declarations of “fake news” are intended to make the public doubt the media, calling it a common tactic used by dictators around the world to solidify their power.
When Eaton asked what he would say if Trump were sitting there with them, Bill Clinton replied: “You can keep on doing what you’re doing. [You] make people look like they need a rabies shot, but it doesn’t get anyone a job or healthcare or get a kid through college.”
He advised Trump to “stop looking for enemies. Stop dividing us.”
When it was her turn to answer that question, Hillary Clinton replied, “I’d sit there and let Bill say all that,” prompting both her and her husband into laughter — one of many times during the evening they showed how much they were enjoying being together and having this conversation.
But Hillary Clinton did have another answer for the question. Seeming surprised that after almost a year in office, Trump still doesn’t seem to understand what his job is, she said, “You don’t tweet about nuclear war.”
Hillary Clinton also had some advice for the next Democratic candidate: Learn how to “get into people’s eight-second attention span and be more entertaining in addition to knowing the issues and how to do the job,” she said.
“We’ve been kind of wonky,” her husband added. “It’s hard to make that appealing.” But, he said, he thought by the next election, “people will actually want to hire someone to do the job.”
When asked if there was any silver lining to having lost the election last year, Hillary Clinton replied, “We get to see our grandchildren a lot.” Her husband agreed, adding “This grandkid thing can’t be overstated.”
Hillary Clinton has been spending her time this year encouraging young people, especially women, to run for office. But when asked about legacy, she said, “It’s too soon to think about legacy because I’m not going anywhere.”
Bill Clinton is busy with the Clinton Foundation’s new initiative to fight the opioid epidemic. In addition to encouraging women to run for office, encouraging human rights, equality and justice, Hillary Clinton said she’s worried about Congress not funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program that she authored.
What neither had to say — because it was obvious from their interactions — was how much they enjoyed supporting each other’s work.