Clinton

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No matter how much you charge him with lying because you were told that he did (did you check the facts?), and no matter how concerned you are with blow jobs in the oval office (or is it actually envy?), you just have to want to sleep with Bill Clinton.  Wait, did I write that?  I meant to write, you just have to love how Clinton stands up against clichés and negative aspects of the American image.

He does.

First of all, there is the cliché that people with southern American accents are unintelligent. (Of course, regarding North versus South, this cliché extends all over Europe as well; in the case of Germany, part of the problem is that someone from Hannover simply cannot understand the person from the Allgäu, and so charges him with lower intelligence). 

When Bill Clinton is fixin’ to tell me something, I am fixin’ to listen.  Watching Clinton is watching a phenomenal intelligence, and the accent is frosting on the cake.

Then there is what Clinton does to the image of Americans as so impatient and superficial that they can only listen to brief sound bites of information. No matter what FOX News said to the contrary (and they were grasping for something, after all), during the Democratic National Convention, people all over the country listened to 45 minutes of policy and did not nod off.  I know people who didn’t complete high school who could later tell me most of what Clinton said.  And did.  He said a lot, but he said it clearly and most importantly, he said it with consequence.

The average American school child performs weakly in math on the international stage, and that is not merely a cliché.  But Clinton was fixin’ to tell us a lot of numbers and to use them to calculate the outcome of various economic policies, budget-wise and debt-wise, and Lord help him, he knows his arithmetic (according to the fact checkers).  He made us listen to big numbers and he manipulated them correctly and he reassured us that we could start with 2+2=4 and get somewhere important.  In fact, he reminded me that countries all over Europe could start with 2+2=4 and then decide if they really want to make retirement reform an evil, ideological discussion.

What I think I like most about Clinton, with all of his smiling, Southern, hometown, populist appeal, is that the only person he sounds like is Bill Clinton.  He doesn’t sound like any other politician I have listened to before or since in the United States.  What I discovered when I lived abroad for more than a decade was that I could not tolerate the sound of a politician who was educated at exactly the same elite school as every other politician in the same country (yes, I am indeed talking about the École Nationale d'Administration).  The fact that there was largely one way to make your point, one general style of discourse, did make me crazy (presumably only because I was not used to it). 

In contrast, Clinton represents something (that admittedly may be abhorrent to people from outside the US), which is that there are many ways to communicate effectively, and that a singsong, almost preacher, sound is one that can be both convincing and also largely about content and national image, and not simply ideology.

Paula NiedenthalComment