© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics

Bill Clinton Celebrates What He Sees as a Debate Win For Hillary

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton was still basking in what many regarded as Hillary Clinton's big win in the first presidential debate this week. And so were the roughly 400 people gathered to hear him in a high school gym in Cleveland last night (Tuesday). WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports:

“Anybody watch that debate last night? Whoa!"

With his usual blend of folksiness and broad-stroke policy, Bill Clinton described Monday night’s matchup as a rout, said he was “tickled to death” with Hillary Clinton’s performance and framed the election as a choice between the past and the future.

“Wherever people are working together to make something good happen for everybody, good things are happening. Wherever they spend all their time dumping on each other and fighting, somebody may win an election, but nothing good is happening for ordinary people. This election’s about you and your future and you need to claim it. We are stronger together.”

Clinton told the group at Ginn Academy on Cleveland’s east side that the national effort to reclaim manufacturing jobs needs to be about rewarding corporations who commit to America and investing in new-tech training, not pining for depleted industries.

And he argued government has a crucial role to play.

"It's like me saying I'd like to be 20 again. ... Believe me I would, but I wouldn't vote for anybody who promised to make me 20 again."

“That’s really what this election’s about. It’s not all this yeah, yeah, yeah you read about every day. It’s about whether you will be more empowered to make more of your own life.” 

Understanding the Trump attraction
Clinton avoided mentioning Donald Trump by name. But the 42nd president – who joked he hopes to be the last president to grow up without indoor plumbing – said he understands Trump’s attraction to some.

“Believe me I get it. I grew up on the other side of that divide. A lot of the people that are all-in for Hillary’s opponent in the white working class, they come from the same group I grew up in.”

History is full of examples, he said, of people in that group being pitted against others trying to find a place at the bottom of what Clinton called the “social totem pole.” But he told the group at Ginn – mixed in age and race -- that they share more than either group realizes.

Bill Clinton on stage
Clinton celebrated what he sees as a clear win for Hillary Clinton in Monday's presidential debate.

He also suggested that Trump’s selling what cannot be:

“It’s like me saying I’d like to be 20 again, just like I was 50 years ago. And believe me I would, but I wouldn’t vote for anybody who promised to make me 20 again.”

Budish launches into Trump
The far more direct attacks on Trump were left to one of the warm-up acts, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, who adopted one of Trump’s own mantras: Not to be politically correct.

“I can tell you that Donald Trump is a racist, misogynist, xenophobic, serial liar who disrespects women and mocks people with disabilities.”

Snapchats and the 90s
But many of those attending the rally seemed more interested in talking about Bill and Hillary Clinton than trashing Trump.

Fifteen-year-old Carly Siegel – a sophomore at East Orange High School – says she’s energized by this year’s election, not put off by it.

“I know I can’t vote and there’s not a lot a lot I can do about it now, but it’s still good to be informed about stuff you can do in the future.”

She watched the entire debate Monday, Snapchatting with her friends during all 95 minutes.

Monea Bowling couldn’t stay up for the the debate, nor could she make it to Clinton’s speech. She’s a secretary for a small-home repair business just around the corner from Ginn. But she has to get up at 3 in the morning for one of the jobs she works to support herself and her 11-year-old son.

"He showed an ability to work in some degree of bipartisan fashion with that Republican-led Congress. ... That era is long gone."

But she remembers Bill Clinton’s administration as a time when the economy overall was stronger and the country more unified. And she feels a personal connection to the Clintons, who expanded healthcare to children.

“My son today gets health care because of Bill Clinton because I couldn’t afford it. I work two jobs and still it’s not enough.”

Rob Frost, the Cuyahoga County Republican Party chief, showed up near Ginn a few hours before the speech to provide a counterpoint. He says a Republican Congress, not Bill Clinton led the reforms that helped the economy boom in the 90s. And he says times have changed since then.

“He, unlike Barack Obama, showed an ability to work in some degree of bipartisan fashion with that Republican-led Congress. It appears from Hillary Clinton that that era is long gone. She’s at war with congressional Republicans.”  

Bill Clinton’s appearance capped a day of voter registration activities throughout northeastern Ohio, including an effort to register homeless voters and voters using mass transit. The election is just 40 days away, and voters must be registered by Oct. 11.