I was in the offices of the new Kirtland Temple Visitor Center last Thursday when the call came through. According to the mayor’s office, Bill Clinton was coming to Kirtland on Saturday — to hold a rally and to tour the Temple. This would make Clinton the first US President to tour the Temple since James Garfield.
The Temple staffmembers were excited, but skeptical. If Clinton were coming, wouldn’t they have heard from the secret service directly?
It turns out that there were quite a few Hillary supporters on the Temple staff. If the 14th Article of Faith in the LDS church is “We believe in the Republican Party…” it seems that the opposite is true in the Community of Christ. (If there are any Community of Christ members who vote Republican, they have the good sense to keep their mouths shut about it when their coreligionists are around.)
Six of us got up to a frigid and snowy Saturday morning and joined the Ohioans lined up to get into the Kirtland High School gymnasium. (We didn’t have far to go; KHS is next door both to the Visitor Center and to the house where I was staying.)
The doors opened at 8am and Bill Clinton was scheduled to arrive at 8:30. The High School band was playing a mixture of pop standbys (the Jackson 5’s “ABC”) and patriotic classics (“God Bless America”). Around 9:15 — still no Bill — everyone stood as the band played the national anthem. Finally at 9:30 it was announced that Clinton would be here… in 15 minutes.
Fortunately this promise was kept and the former president arrived just over an hour late. Just as fortunate, Ohio’s governor and lieutenant governor kept their introductions very short. There were about three or four rows of people standing between me and Clinton. However, I’m 6’4″ and Ohioans are not a particularly tall people, so I had a very unobstructed view. It was the first time I’d attended a presidential political rally since 1992, when then-candidate Bill Clinton addressed a huge group of students on the campus of the University of Michigan.
Clinton made his pitch well: He had 3 major reasons and about 27 sub-reasons to vote for Hillary. He continues to be a very likable, personable person who speaks well. He’s very intelligent, but speaks in a way that is approachable and folksy — probably deliberately so. (He said “the al-qaeda” about half a dozen times, even though I’m sure he knows very well that “al” means “the”).
He got laughs, applause and cheers — I gave him all three, even though I’ve already endorsed Obama. I don’t have any hard feelings. Meanwhile, I already predicted back on February 10 — when Hillary was still up 20 points in Ohio and Texas — that she’d lose both and would drop out soon afterward. That prediction was a lot more bold back then than it would be now, but we’ll soon see if I’m right.
I headed back over to the Visitor Center right after the rally, just in case Clinton decided to show up for the tour after all. However, the fact that he was already running an hour late meant that any fat in his schedule would have to be trimmed.
As we watched his motorcade drive off down Chillecothe Road, we realized that Bill Clinton would not be the first president since James Garfield to visit the Temple — at least not that day. That honor will have to wait until another day.