When the cheering stopped and the crowd sat down, actor Bradley Whitford opened “An Evening With the Clintons” Friday with a little bit of life imitating art.
“I hope this isn’t too in the weeds,” Whitford said, “but I am going to quote the character I played in ‘The West Wing’ and ask: What in God’s name is happening right now?”
And so began a 90-minute conversation at Seattle’s WaMu Theater in which the former president and the would-be president (and former secretary of state) vented, gossiped and inspired a true-blue, Democratic crowd. The audience included young children and senior citizens who nodded along; screamed “We love you!”; and walked out feeling just a little better about things.
“I really believe that we are in a crisis, a constitutional crisis,” Hillary Clinton said. “We are in a crisis of confidence and a crisis over the rule of law and the institutions that have weathered a lot of problems over so many years. And it is something that, regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum, should give real heartburn to everybody. Because this is a test for our country.”
The Clintons were clearly speaking to the blue end of that spectrum.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr “would rather be the president’s defense lawyer than the chief law enforcement officer of our country,” Hillary Clinton said.
The Mueller report “not only decisively proves but goes chapter and verse about how the Russians — in the words of the report — conducted ‘a sweeping and systemic interference in our election,’ ” she said. “And then you wake up and your president is spending an hour on the phone with Vladimir Putin, who was the mastermind of the interference and attack on our election.”
Said Bill Clinton: “These people, they don’t believe the same set of rules apply to them that apply to everyone else.”
The event was billed as a “speaking tour,” since neither of the Clintons had a book or cause to promote. Just themselves, and their opinions about the current state of politics in the country.
While the crowd waited for 30 minutes past the 7:30 p.m. start time, they watched a series of photographs projected on two screens on either side of the stage: Hillary cracking up with a bent-over-laughing Barack Obama; Bill surrounded by balloons on the stage of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, all set to a soundtrack of Clinton-era music, including U2’s “Sweetest Thing” and “One.”
It all packed a bit of a punch for the Democratic stalwarts in the crowd, like Billie and Frank Donahue, who sat in the fifth row.
“This would be a whole different world if things were …” Billie started. “It hits home that she didn’t win, and how can that be? You think you got over it, but you’re here today, and …”
Bill Clinton apparently feels the same way. He called the FBI investigation of his wife’s use of a private server to send government emails “The single worst thing I ever lived through in my entire public life” and “phony as a three-dollar bill.”
“And I hope you didn’t miss,” he added, “that [former FBI head] Jim Comey was using his own email to do official business.”
The former president compared the nearly two dozen people who have declared themselves presidential candidates to the NFL draft. “You can’t know,” he said. “Watch them with an open heart and an open mind and watch their rise and ask, ‘What are you going to do for our children’s future?’ ”
Hillary Clinton is happy to see so many women running for president, but worried about the misogyny and double standards that she experienced: “I’ve never heard anyone tell any man who lost an election to go away and shut up.”
The women in the crowd cheered.
“I remain optimistic,” she said. “I think we’ll get around this.”
On the way out of the theater, Diana Alhatlani, of Renton, turned to her friend Heidi Sky, of Seattle, and asked: “Don’t you feel better? I do. It’s like going to the spa.”
“I think it’s good to have the pep talk,” Sky said. “It keeps you on the path. You have to stay positive.”
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