Clinton wows ’em @ Asheville High



State Rep. Susan Fisher introducing President Clinton, Asheville High School, 3/29/2008

Love him or hate him, President Clinton knows how to deliver a speech. He’s a master at working a crowd even if he’s ultimately preaching to his own choir (reports have come in that several Obama supporters were denied entrance into the venue).

Anyway, the draw was irresistible – after a quick post-work disco nap, Mrs. Arratik and I grabbed some dinner and headed for Asheville High School to witness a rare Presidential visit to WNC. Thankfully, his speech was devoid of the mudslinging, race-baiting and trash-talking that characterized his earlier campaign appearances. Instead, he stayed focused on the “big issues” – among them the economy, health care, security, and energy – with a few humorous anecdotes and applause-fishing references to local landmarks thrown in for good measure.

Here’s Clinton’s speech in its entirety, which lasted a little more than an hour. Stream it here using the embedded player or download it, and tell us what you think!

Right-click here to download

I have a few more pictures from the evening that I’ll upload sometime tomorrow. Right now, I have some serious sleep debt I need to catch up on…

[micandacam over @ Pat Go Bye Bye caught the Big Dog Express in Gastonia yesterday. Check it out here.]

Categories : Local, Presidential Race


  1. randallt says:

    Arratik, thanks so much for the speech. Nice work.

  2. laura says:

    I am far from in Clinton’s choir (and spoke to many other undecided attendees), and I was extremely impressed by Bill Clinton’s understanding of the subtleties of things like the fact that using corn ethanol for biofuel is the least efficient way to do biofuel, and that landfills are a great source of both methane and biomass.

    I was impressed by the complicated, concrete, realistic policy ideas that he put forth, especially regarding the home mortgage crisis and the need for mental care for iraq veterans. I came to the speech not expecting much, and I actually felt like I learned some things about the home mortgage crisis from attending. I left impressed by the subtleties in his understanding of complicated issues, and leaning way more towards supporting Hillary than I was before. From their written plans, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between Obama and Hillary, yet Bill Clinton’s speech evidenced some clear differences and some concrete ideas that were more progressive than Obama’s (or Hillary’s) written plan. In other words, I left convinced that he knows his shit. It’s now on Obama to come here, speak, and convince me that he has concrete policy ideas that are more progressive than Hillary’s.

    I think the strongest argument against Hillary is the fact that so many people hate her, and I have heard many people say they would vote for Obama first, McCain second, and Hillary third. I have a hard time, however, believing that anyone who says this pays attention to policy at all, and it disturbs me.

    I found it irritating that you said Clinton “kept his speech light on the mudslinging, race-baiting and trash-talking”, when I in fact saw no evidence of any of that.

    I also would like to know if you are positive that the Obama supporters were denied entrance due to their support of Obama. Lindsey and I overheard them saying they weren’t interested in hearing the speech. Perhaps they changed their minds later. However, I know for certain that they were not in line to get into the speech, and Lindsey and I were near the end of those let in to hear the speech. The gym was almost full when we got in, and there were several hundred people behind us in line. All this aside, I also think it is within the rights of the Clinton campaign to prevent Obama supporters who are yelling at people in line from entering, as a peace-keeping measure.

  3. Arratik says:

    One of the Clinton supporters was walking the line at one point getting a count, and he indicated that we were around the 700 person mark. I didn’t see Paul Choi or his cohorts; they must have been further back in line. Maybe they were there to stir things up or to prove a point or something. Since I’m not Paul, I can’t speak for him. I’m sure he’d be more than happy to answer your question if you asked him, not me.

    By now I’m used to irritating you by simply posting to this blog. I’m sure this won’t be the last time. In fact, I’m sure I just did it.

    Hello! How are you? There, I just did it again.


  4. laura says:

    Arratik, i’m sure I irritate you too. However, I thought I was raising points worthy of debate and legitimate to the conversation, and felt that your response was unnecessarily condescending. Lets try to be civilized about this and direct comments towards the subject and not towards each other.

  5. Pres. Clinton was convincing, and sold Sen. Clinton well. Good speech and good points. Most telling was when Clinton asked for a show of hands: “Raise your hand if you know somebody without health insurance at all.” Somewhere from 40-50% of the crowd raised their hands.

    Clinton surveyed the crowd and said, “This is the only country in the world where you could get that answer – the only rich country. This is the only country in the world where anybody could ask the question at election time.”

    Mrs. Blue and I went without in 2003 and 2004 after I got laid off and COBRA ran out. He got me where I live.

    I visited the new Obama HQ earlier in the day and was frank about going to hear Bill to fish for volunteers for the fall campaigns. 2500 potential volunteers in one place was an opportunity not to be missed. I’ll be at the Obama event at the Orange Peel on April 17 too, for the same reason.

    Hillary Clinton supporters we met last night who said they would vote for McCain before they’d vote for Obama might want to think that through some. That goes equally for the Obama supporters who say the same. You want to shoot yourselves in the foot? I’ll loan you the gun.

    Both our remaining candidates and their supporters owe this country better. We owe the world better. Republicans win when Democrats who don’t get their way take their balls and go home. Bill Bennett probably has probably placed bets on that happening – with good odds.

    For all of the wonky policy talk to make any difference, we first have to win. We have to pull together when this nomination is resolved. And we have to work together to get out our vote.

    Ideals are nice, but to both Obama and Clinton supporters I’m frustratingly practical. I don’t care that Obama has the chance to be the first Africa-American president. I don’t care that Clinton has the chance to be the first woman president. I don’t care which candidate claims the most experience, or who gives the best speech or whose husband does. They’re nice perks. But I want the candidate who has the most potential for energizing volunteers, for attracting new and crossover voters. I want the candidate who has the most potential for coattails, for helping new Democrats win office on the local, state and national levels. I want the Democrat who is going to make turning out our vote this fall the easiest. I want the candidate who is going to make the GOP’s job the hardest.

    Elections are a numbers game. Bottom line: 50% + 1 wins. If on November 5th, there is a Republican president-elect, none of the trash talk about which Democrat is better or more qualified ain’t worth squat.

  6. laura says:

    props, undercover blue. good points all around. I will put my shoulder to the grindstone for whichever democratic candidate wins it in the end.

  7. Paul says:

    Hi, this is Paul…

    We give out Free Hugs for Obama every Friday at Pack Square in downtown Asheville. This past Friday, after a couple hours of hugs, we decided to go to Asheville High and see if we could do the same there. We knew, of course, that the former president would be speaking. We stood next to the line and very quickly started giving free hugs to an overall pleasant and friendly crowd. One of the Clinton volunteers gave one of us a high-five.

    We initially planned to just give hugs and not enter the event. But as we neared the entrance to the gym, we decided to see if we could get in with our Obama gear. This event was advertised as free and open to the public.

    We each filled out the forms that were required for entry. At the door, a man (whose name was given as Emmanuel, whom we assume is a Clinton staff member) stopped me and looked at my Free Hugs for Obama sign. He said simply: No you can’t come in with any of this… referring to my sign, pin and others’ t-shirts and signs. I replied: If we discard our signs and turn our shirts inside out and remove our pins, can we come in? His answer was no. Another one of us asked why and he said: Because I don’t know what you’re going to do in there. A couple of us argued for a moment but it was clear he would not be letting us in.

    At the far left door, a few moments later, another Obama supporter with an Obama t-shirt tried to enter and was also told the same thing.

    At this point we told our story to Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Joel Burgess (whom we had befriended earlier as he interviewed us while we were giving hugs) who was outside the doors to the gym. He approached the Clinton staff to ask for verification: Were we denied entry because we had Obama gear on? The answer was yes and the link to the C-T article above is an accurate description albeit lacking some detail.

    As for our location in line, we were at the tail end right before they closed the doors. Laura probably would not have seen us if she was “several hundred people” ahead.

    Also, I respectfully denounce Laura’s mischaracterization of our “yelling at people in line.” Announcing to people in a loud voice so that dozens of people can hear you at a public venue… the words:
    “Free Hugs for Obama!”
    “Vote in the Democratic Primary on May 6th”
    “Register to vote before April 11th”
    “Our new Obama office is open at 107 Merrimon Ave next to Bojangles”

    is hardly “yelling at people.”

    Now, regarding our denial of entry… I agree with the Clinton campaign. It’s their event. If they don’t want us to come inside, then fine… so be it. At most of the Obama rallies in the past few months, there was always a restriction: No large bags, backpacks and signs. I believe this is enacted simply to keep unwanted messages out of a popular event. This is politics after all. I believe there was a similar restriction here at Asheville High.

    (As for what other people think of our denial, check out the myriad comments from The Daily Kos which picked up our story:

    But as for our motive… from the very first time I met an Obama staff member last summer, we have ALWAYS been told: Respect all the candidates and their campaigns. We are not negative, ever.

    If any of you know us personally, you know we would have sat respectfully and listened to Mr. Clinton speak. That is something that every Obama supporter I know does well: we listen.

    And finally, consider for a moment… if we truly wanted to disrupt Mr. Clinton’s speech, then we could’ve easily painted Obama logos on our bodies and hid them under regular clothing and waited for the right moment to jump up and strip to our undies and jiggle our support for Sen. Obama while Mr. Clinton spoke on “concrete ideas.” But we didn’t. It’s not what we do. We give free hugs.

    Please join us every Tuesday at Asheville Brewing Co. in downtown Asheville at 7:00pm for a social gathering of Obama supporters. If you want to talk to me, I’m usually there every week.

    Paul Choi

    (By the way, just came back in from about 9 hours of registering people to vote. Obama supporters in Buncombe County today registered over 150 new voters.)

  8. Gordon Smith says:

    Thanks, Paul, you and the other Obama supporters in western North Carolina have created a new standard for organization and decorum.

  9. Arratik says:

    Thx for your side of the story, Paul.

    And Laura… you aren’t an irritant. You’re not even close to the line that one would need to cross.

    I’m not offering this as an excuse for anything, but my editorial skills tend to diminish slightly after midnight. After reading it again and listening back to the speech recording, I think the passage in question probably should be worded differently. The edit will most likely have been made by the time you read this.

  10. laura says:

    Hey Paul-
    Thanks so much for the low down on the denial of entrance. After hearing your story, seems like you guys did everything you could to enter peacefully and respectfully, and the Clinton campaign was in the wrong.

    The yelling at people I was referring to was “do you really want four more years of the same” or something to that effect, but granted, I bet there were probably Clinton supporters yelling back at you.

    Also, mad props on the registering of voters.

    And Arratik, thanks for reconsidering my comment.

  11. My take was that Bill’s talk was full of ways he believes Hillary can fix the things he screwed up. Hmmm.

    He claimed, “Nobody saw that the trade deals would send corporations overseas.” Wrong, dude. We did and we said so loudly when you and Hillary were pushing NAFTA.

    He claimed, “Hillary will fix things for the working class.” Well, maybe. But back in the day she was a union-buster at Wal-Mart. Her and your policies are a big part of the reason Bush was able to FURTHER bash us working folks.

    He touted wonderful sounding environmental and energy ideas … the same ones Gore was advancing before he took the V.P. job with Bill Clinton, who really failed as an environmental president. Look at how he played to the environmentalists with his last-minute declaration of roadless areas — conveniently so late that Bush was able to cancel them on his first day in office. Gore wrote (and ran on) “Earth in the Balance” while Clinton ran the government for the benefit of corporate balance sheets.

    He will remain the second best Republican president we’ve ever had (after Lincoln), but he handed our political world to the major corporations and his cohort in the Democratic National Committee continue to do the same

    Yes he is a fine speaker (though too long-winded by half). He was a lot better at the Billy Graham Library opening last May. Probably had a time limit.

    By the way, I entered the arena AFTER the Obama team was turned away, and can therefore confirm that scenario. I kept my Obama button in my pocket and made it past the guards.

  12. oneyedrosie says:

    I hope President Clinton could feel the love in the room on Friday. We Clinton-lovers don’t have to hug each other to show our support, we just vibrate a little higher and cast it towards each other. Why would I attend an Obama speech wearing Clinton gear and carrying Clinton signs? What would I be hoping to achieve? Why would I try to take a spot on the floor away from someone who is strongly drawn to Obama when I am not? Wouldn’t that be self centered of me? And why would I want to diminish the joy Obama lovers would be feeling at that moment when they get to share air with their cherished leader? I would not deny them their joy or their space or their shot at a moment of group energy undisrupted. Why would they want to do that to me?