Jim Warren has gone wading into the swamp of the released papers at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock and come out with a speech the president could have given, had one of his wilder writers had his way.
“Clean up your language,” writer Dick Morris wanted Bill Clinton to tell the 1995 graduating class at Michigan State University. “Mother is not an adjective and every time you use it, guess who gets the dis? Your own Moms. You like your ten-word vocabulary? Guess what it gets you? A ten horsepower brain.”
“Stop wallowing in victimhood, pouty and petulant if maybe you don’t get hired with your eight tattoos and a ring through your nose.”
Warren tells of his find at the New York Daily News’s ”The Swamp,” with a name appropriated from the once-great political blog of the Chicago Tribune, where he worked and where this writer toiled in said Swamp.
So from Morris — who had followed Clinton from Arkansas to the White House and was leading his 1996 re-election campaign until Morris brought some unwanted controversy to the table in the form of a call girl allegedly allowed to listen in on presidential conversations — and from the archives of C-Span, here’s a look at what the adviser wanted Clinton to say, and what the president really did say that day in East Lansing.
The Morris memo to then-Clinton speechwriters Don Baer and David Shipley, now executive editor at Bloomberg View, involved a speech which Morris understood was supposed to cover affirmative action. Warren writes that Morris sought guidance from Bob Shanks, a Hollywood producer, writer and director.
Warren notes that in the “March 1995 hand-scribbled note to Clinton and Baer, Morris informed, `Bob Shanks is a nationally famous TV person. He created and produced 20/20, Jack Paar, Merv Griffith (sic) and Good Morning America. His play ‘Lillian’ (Hellman) has been on Broadway.”’
“Here is some rhetoric on affirmative action and on America,” Morris wrote, delivering a 14-page typewritten proposal from Shanks. “It’s raw and it’s partly great:”
“There are billions of unreported, positive interactions everyday in our country among people of all different faiths and colors and origins, that are filled with grace and accomplishment, friendship, trust and respect; and simple, nourishing courtesy,” Shanks wanted Clinton to say. “Your real problems are economic… Guys—it’s time to listen up. Get it into your Walkmans.”
Twenty-one years later, the Walkman has gone the way of the iPhone, tattoos have gotten completely out of control, `mother ‘ is permanently affixed in the hip-hop lexicon — and that speech, thankfully, rests in the archives of an administration that fostered “a bridge to the 21st Century.”
The speech Clinton delivered at Spartan Stadium on May 5, 1995, was more about the challenges facing the U.S. in a changing world, with a special closing emphasis on the militias that were on everyone’s minds in Michigan at the time — words that bear a certain foreboding about the modern-day debate over the Second Amendment, gun control and the overreaching power, as some in the Tea Party see it, of the American government.
“So I say this to the militias and all others who believe that the greatest threat to freedom comes from the government instead of from those who would take away our freedom: If you say violence is an acceptable way to make change, you are wrong,” Clinton said.
“If you say that government is in a conspiracy to take your freedom away, you are just plain wrong. If you treat law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line for your safety every day like some kind of enemy army to be suspected, derided, and if they should enforce the law against you, to be shot, you are wrong. If you appropriate our sacred symbols for paranoid purposes and compare yourselves to colonial militias who fought for the democracy you now rail against, you are wrong. How dare you suggest that we in the freest nation on Earth live in tyranny! How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes!”
“I say to you, all of you, the members of the Class of 1995, there is nothing patriotic about hating your country or pretending that you can love your country but despise your government.”