Oozing charm, the charmer-in-chief thanks his fans and leaves a slippery path for Al Gore.
Topics: Politics News
Amazingly, astoundingly, after President Clinton’s Monday night kickoff speech to the Democratic National Convention, a Broadway troupe was whisked on stage to perform “76 Trombones,” a number from “The Music Man.”
Thus, President Clinton was followed on stage by Professor Harold Hill — a snake-oil salesman, a con artist who charms an Iowa town into falling for his charismatic duplicity. By the musical’s grand finale, Hill has so successfully wormed his way into the hearts of the good townsfolk that it didn’t matter he had lied to them. Life was good, the town content and he, after all, was so darn charming.
After a series of speeches by Democratic women senators, and a competent-if-flat address by first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, the president was first introduced in a biopic that highlighted his administration’s greatest photo ops.
With complete superstar treatment, Clinton was introduced to the crowd like a prizefighter, oddly following a hand-held camera backstage through the arena’s long, sterile-white hallways, making his way to the stage. When he finally appeared, he stopped briefly to shake some hands on the enormous stage, embracing only his chief fundraiser, Terry “the Macker” MacAuliffe.
We did it, President Clinton told a pumped-up crowd waving hundreds of signs reading, “Thank you, President Clinton.” And followed with an implicit message: Now don’t screw it up.
With his honeysuckle charm, Clinton delivered a masterful oration, the crowd eating up his every “aw-shucks,” reporters shaking their heads in a reluctant admiration for one of American history’s greatest public speakers, one who inevitably reminds listeners that Al Gore is off-puttingly plastic, and Gov. George W. Bush seems, frankly, not quite ready for prime time.
“Eight years ago, when our party met in New York, it was a far different time for America,” Clinton reminded the nation. “Our economy was in trouble, our society was divided, our political system was paralyzed. Ten million of our fellow citizens were out of work. Interest rates were high. The deficit was $290 billion and rising. After 12 years of Republican rule, the federal debt had quadrupled, imposing a crushing burden on our economy and on our children.”
Then — as is Democratic mantra, part mythos and part fact — Clinton and his running mate, Al Gore (referred to as “one of the very best decisions of my life” by Clinton) — launched their economic plan, which passed both houses of Congress with not one Republican vote, not even that of Clinton’s now-secretary of defense, former Maine Sen. Bill Cohen.
“Not a single Republican supported it,” Clinton said. “Their leaders said it would increase the deficit, kill jobs and give us a one-way ticket to recession.
“Time has not been kind to their predictions,” Clinton dead-panned. “You remember our Republican friends said then they would not be held responsible for our economic policies. I hope the American people will take them at their word.”
Making sure to praise both his wife and running mate, Clinton was at his most alive when he spoke of his administration’s accomplishments — slapping Bush phre and fils in the process — and talking about, naturally, himself. Daddy Bush had vetoed the Family and Medical Leave Act, he said. “It’s the first bill I signed.”
Tens of millions of Americans have since been able to take unpaid leave to “care for a newborn child or a sick relative,” Clinton said. “That’s what it means — that’s what it really means to be pro-family.”
He couldn’t help himself. “We’ve given America the most diverse administration in history — it really looks like America,” he ad-libbed. “You know, if I could just get my administration up here it would be just as good a picture as anything you saw a couple weeks ago” at the Benetton ad otherwise known as the Republican National Convention.
A litany of achievements was savored. Foreign policy achievements. Improved SAT scores. Decreased crime. A Medicare trust fund extended for 26 years. And, of course, “the longest economic expansion in our history … For the first time in decades, wages are rising at all income levels … Harry Truman’s old saying has never been more true: If you want to live like a Republican, you better vote for a Democrat.”
“But we’re not just better off,” Clinton said. “We’re also a better country. We are today more tolerant, more decent, more humane and more united.” In another Bush-slap, he joked, “now that’s the purpose of prosperity.”
He took a few moments to assure Americans about Gore. “I know him,” he said. “He is a profoundly good man. And lemme tell you something else about him: More than anybody else I’ve known in public life, Al Gore understands the future and how sweeping changes and scientific breakthroughs will affect ordinary Americans’ daily lives.”
“We should posit that our opponents are good, honorable, and patriotic people — but there are also differences.” The differences are, according to Clinton, that Gore — while his own man, of course — will continue the genius policies that Clinton has ushered in. “We should stick with what works,” he said.
Bush, conversely, is the past, what doesn’t work, promoting policies that will “spend every dime of our projected surplus — and then some — on big tax cuts.”
Even worse, Clinton argued, Bush is Richard Nixon. After all, “the last time we had an expansion this long was in the 1960s.” In 1964, Clinton said, “I assumed, like most Americans, that our economy was on automatic — nothing could derail it … So we took it for granted.” Then Nixon got elected and “within months after that election, the last longest economic expansion in history was, itself, history.”
“You know how I feel” about the race, Clinton said. “But it’s not my decision to make. That belongs to the American people.”
Winding down, Clinton said that “54 years ago this week” — somebody’s got a birthday coming up! — “I was born in a summer storm to a young widow in a small Southern town. America gave me the chance to live my dreams and I have tried — as hard as I knew how — to give you a better chance to live yours … The future of our country is now in your hands …”
“And remember, whatever you think about me” — Clinton said, in his only even remote acknowledgement of the Monica-cophony — “keep putting people first. Keeping building those bridges.
“And don’t. Stop. Thinking about. Tomorrow,” he said. “I love you!”
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Two-for-one for Everyone — West Wind Solano Twin Drive-In, Concord, Calif. This family-friendly attraction with several spots across the U.S. (including California, Nevada and Arizona) prides itself on offering first-run double features (save for premiere events) on the cheap — which is quite the deal, considering their 65-foot screens are among the biggest in the biz. And if you have great car speakers, even better: squawk boxes of old have been replaced with Dolby quality audio piped through your car’s FM stereo.
For the Four-legged Friendly — Warwick Drive-In, Warwick, N.Y. Northeast city slickers looking for a place to watch their favorite movie stars under the stars need only veer six miles east of Vernon, N.J. What began as a family affair in 1950 has since become a seasonal institution offering rural and urban (and pet!) audiences two movies for the price of one on any of its three giant screens.
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See Stars Collide — Ford-Wyoming Drive-In, Dearborn, Mich. Open year-round (unlike many of its surviving contemporaries), this five-screen staple of the Midwest known as the “largest drive-in in the world” plays host for up to 3,000 cars on any given night. And if the double-feature doesn’t hold your attention, relax; you’ve got the best (car)seat in the house for the occasional overhead meteor shower.
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A Hole (Lot of Fun) in One — Wellfleet Drive-In, Wellfleet, Mass.Built in 1957 and still offering original mono sound boxes for those looking for an authentic experience (or not, as FM stereo is available as well), the summer-exclusive theater hosts double features of first-runs on its giant 100’ x 44’ screen. Come for the movies, stay for the mini-golf and flea market (on select days).
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Go Big or Drive Home — Bengies Drive-In, Baltimore, Md. The only thing bigger than Bengies’ prolific history (57 years and going) is its main attraction — boasting the biggest theater screen in the U.S. at 6,240 square feet. That’s 52’ x 120’ of pure anamorphic presentation. Complementing its time capsule of a snack bar (unchanged since ’56), previews old and new occupy the venue’s old-timey intermissions between features.
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Proof That Film is Forever — Shankweilers, Orefield, Pa. While we’re on superlative street, consider stopping at this roadside treasure: America’s oldest drive-in. Operating since 1934, it may not have the frills and pony rides of nearby Becky’s Drive-In, but it’s defied hurricanes and the wear and tear of time. Worth the one-hour drive from Philly.
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The Gritty Hollywood Reboot — Corral Drive-In, Guymon, Okla. Like a slasher movie menace that died (several times) in the ’80s only to be rebooted years after, the long-vacant Corral Drive-In was resurrected and restored in 2009, providing big entertainment at a nominal fee. And if the $6 adult admission doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, the venue’s inflatable bouncers most definitely will.
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Hop the Healthy Highway — Delsea Drive-In, Vineland, N.J. Less than an hour’s trip from Atlantic City, New Jersey’s only drive-in offers the best of both worlds — old school aesthetic outfitted with modern tech and healthier food choices to boot. Open seasonally, with first features beginning around dusk.
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Bring Your Backyard to the Big Screen — Starlight Six Drive-In, Atlanta, Ga. As much a backdoor barbecue as it is a night out at the movies, this six-screen Atlanta drive-in encourages what most in the theater biz forbid: bringing your own food and grilling it. Those looking to add a hip twist of the theatrical to their Labor Day getaway need only stock the cooler and pack some brats or burgers for the Starlight’s annual “Drive-Invasion,” which features a hot-rod show, live music, and B-movies galore.
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And really, what better way is there to cruise the nostalgia highway of old Hollywood than in a MINI Roadster? Allowing all the headroom one needs to see the stars on the screen and those directly above, the 2013 convertible goes the distance where it counts — on the road (obviously), not to mention the discerning driver’s wallet. Never mind that its fun-size frame also makes motoring in and out of tight traffic all the more enjoyable (or parking in even tighter spots for cozy romantics all the more convenient).
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