Tuesday night [September 12, 2000], Hoy and I traveled from Charlottesville, Virginia to Washington, D.C. to see the President. I had not seen the President since his 1992 Inaugural and Hoy had not met him at all.
However, we both -- father and son -- admire him and his Presidency and have remained with him since those heady days when he was first elected to office.
The occasion for our visit was a fundraiser for Democrat Mike Ross, candidate for the 4th Congressional District in Arkansas, who is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Jay Dickey.
The event was held at the home of Thomas F. 'Mack' McLarty, former White House chief of staff, and was expected to raise between $100,000 and $150,000 (Paul Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 13, 2000).
We arrived at 6 p.m. [lock-down was said to occur between 7 and 7:30 p.m.] with plenty of spare time to chat up arrivals as we waited to go inside.
The crowd was made up of lobbiests, administration officials, elected officials, staff, and a variety of others, with loads of security.
There was valet parking and any cars found parked within two blocks of the party risked being towed off.
But even before we had a chance to meet any of the invited guests, we spoke with four or five individuals who introduced themselves as 'Republican intelligence'.
Republican Jay Dickey "has tried to paint Ross' campaign as controlled by 'liberal masters' from Washington.
'I would be interested to see the guest list, said Marit Babin, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Ross' staff said no such guest list could be released although the contributions would appear on a Federal Election Commission report in a few weeks" (Paul Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 13, 2000).
Marit Babin may have to wait on the FEC report for the names, but there was no waiting on the faces -- as everyone who came through the door was videotaped by Republican operatives.
Ross' "campaign insisted the event was in keeping with the small-town Arkansas flavor of his campaign. 'D.C. is blessed with a great many Arkansans,' said Kris Schultz, campaign press secretary.
The majority of those in attendance, she said, would be native Arkansans, including many who lived in the District of Columbia area and socialized together as the Arkansas State Society. They were expected to contribute at least $200 each. Others were to pay $1,000 a person (Paul Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 13, 2000).
Hoy and I attended as members of the Arkansas State Society. While my family has been out of Arkansas since before I was born, I can personally tell you that the affair was crawling with people who either currently live in Arkansas or came up from Arkansas to work with the President.
Mike Ross has said his campaign "is about Arkansas friends and Arkansas relationships" (Paul Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 13, 2000) -- an impression well borne out by the people we met.
This, in fact, was one of the joys of the occasion. As the Clinton Presidency draws to an end, here we were with a group of people who have stood by the President, who support the President, and who care about the Democratic party and about Arkansas.
The event at the McLarty's did have a small town flavor. In fact, it reminded me a little bit of the 1992 Arkansas State Society Inaugural Ball. Many people knew one another and everyone was dressed in casual attire (coat and tie) and everyone was there to have a good time.
Donna Kay and Mack McLarty live in a four or five story townhouse in northwest Washington, D.C. Having made our way through the receiving line, Hoy and I were guided into a spacious den and outdoor patio on the first floor. Others, according to the color of the star on their name tag, were guided upstairs.
As we awaited the arrival of the President downstairs, we were impressed with how friendly and unassuming the people were. There was talk of the recent Democratic convention in Los Angeles; there was talk of Arkansas weather and Arkansas schools. Hoy even found someone from Arlington, Virginia who spoke about our current Virginia races.
While waiting, we also spoke with Jaime Daremblum, Ambassador of Costa Rica, whose residence is right next door. Mr. Daremblum, who was there as a good neighbor, also said that he had attended the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
It was wonderful to be so graciously welcomed into the McLarty home. And to pall around with administration officials and people from Arkansas. However, Hoy and I also had an additional mission.
The first was, of course, to meet and hear the President. The second was to see if the President might sign a picture I took of him the day after his 1992 debate in Richmond, Virginia.
With the support of staff and many of the kind people whom we met, Hoy succeeded in getting the picture signed. However, we were now blocked (for security reasons) from entry into the den area where the President was to give his remarks. So we retired to the library to hear the speech.
[As it turns out, it was much cooler in the library than in the den down below, where people had crowded in and the doors had been closed for security reasons.]
In an article the next day, Paul Barton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted The New York Times report "in February 1999 that the president was determined to seek revenge against Dickey for Dickey's votes in favor of impeachment.
White House spokesman Jason Schechter denied that was happening. 'The president is supporting Mike Ross because he believes he will make a great congressman,' Schechter said Tuesday.
But the tape of Clinton's remarks from the fund-raiser obtained from pool reporters, indicated he continues to have little regard for Dickey.
'When the chips were down, the representative from south Arkansas was always on the other side,' Clinton said of his nearly eight years in office. Dickey was first elected in 1992, the year the president won his first term.
Clinton said Dickey wholeheartedly supported the 1995 effort of congressional Republican leaders that would have slashed a wide variety of programs important to working Americans.
'He stood up there and said, 'Yes sir, count me in,'' the president said. Clinton added: 'Whenever the people down there [in Arkansas] needed one thing and the [Republican] party leaders up here ...said another, another always won, over and over and over again'" (Paul Barton, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, September 13, 2000).
Personally, I have always believed that the impeachment proceedings were politically motivated. I would be happy to see any member of Congress who voted for impeachment suffer defeat in the upcoming elections. And many of the people whom we met at the event would be only too pleased if the President could serve a third term as well.
However, this fund-raiser was about the future. It was about the importance of electing Democrats to Congress, in Arkansas and throughout the nation. [See Remarks by the President at Reception for Mike Ross for the full text of President Clinton's comments.]
As Hoy and I sat in the McLarty library, we were surrounded by reminders of the Clinton White House and the Clinton presidency.
On one wall there was a picture of Mac McLarty with YasirArafat. On another, a picture of McLarty with Presidents Ford, Carter, Bush and Clinton. On the bookshelf, there was a book by George Stephanopoulos.
As we listened to the President Clinton's speech, we were reminded of the strengths of his Presidency and of the importance of the contests for election now underway.
A week before the Democratic National Convention, President Clinton was a keynote speaker at a private $20,000-a-plate fundraiser hosted by Patricia Kluge at her Albemarle County, Virginia estate. [See Remarks by the President at DNC Dinner for the full text of President Clinton's comments.]
Clinton praised Al Gore as "'the best vice-president this country has ever had.' He singled out out Gore's work to protect the environment and expand internet access for schools and said Gore has the vision to lead America in the next century.
'There has never been a vice-president who has done more good than Al Gore,' Clinton said. 'I want someone in the White House who understands the future - and he does'" (Eric Swensen, The Daily Progress, August 9, 2000).
No word of political operatives on that occasion, but apparently the event did draw "a handful of protesters" outside Albemarle House (Eric Swensen, The Daily Progress, August 9, 2000).
Between the first of this year and the end of the Democratic convention, President Clinton has attended 115 events for various Democrats to help raise upwards of $75 million (John H. Harris, The Washington Post Magazine, September 10, 2000).
I hope he is able to help raise ten times more.
Our thanks to Donna Kay and Mack McLarty for hosting the event, to Mike Ross's staff and all of the kind people whom we met, and to the Arkansas State Society [Arkansas -- a state of mind, Arkansas a state of mine] for inviting us to the event.
If you have comments about political intelligence gathering practices or about the Clinton presidency in its closing days, please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and the most representative will be posted with full attribution.
Note: You too can download the President's remarks at various
occasions by running a search from White
House Electronic Publications. Thanks to Georgia Short at Reed Smith
for alerting me to the link.