• The Speech Lightfoot Should Have Made

    • Posted on Nov 08, 1998

    11/8/98

    To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to lose, a time to win, a time to concede, a time to gloat, a time to refrain from gloating.

    Election night always brings a bit of gloating and bit of conceding, and last Tuesday was no exception.

    The best candidates refrain from gloating, though all their instincts tell them to lay it on thick, to holler "I told you so!" a thousand different ways, and rub it in, maybe with a little salt to season the victory.

    Democrat Tom Vilsack, to his credit, didn't do that. Instead, he praised moderate Republicans for their support, thanking Republican opponent Jim Ross Lightfoot, and even commending Terry Branstad for his hard work and many years of service as governor.

    That was a nice touch, and surely reminded his supporters why they worked so hard for his election.

    Of course it's not much of a task to summon a bit of graciousness when you've won. The real challenge? Graciousness under fire, when you've lost.

    Lightfoot, sad to say, didn't conjure graciousness.

    Instead, he fought off tears, shook his finger at the camera and told his opponent that he had better remember he was elected governor of all the people, not the special interest groups that supported his campaign.

    Then he took a cheap shot at the Des Moines Register, suggesting that Register editors endorsed Vilsack because they had been on drugs. ("Now I know why the editors don't endorse drug testing," he said, trying to make a joke. Even his supporters didn't laugh.)

    He also referred bitterly to "Monday morning quarterbacks," meaning commentators who have never run for office, implying that they had no business criticizing him because they can't speak from experience.

    Of course, he would have had no trouble accepting their praises had he won. Chalk it up to understandable disappointment, which can lead to bitterness and cynicism.

    In any case, here's the concession speech I would have liked to have heard from Lightfoot:

    "It's clear now that we have lost. Like anyone in a close race, I wrote two speeches. The first was a victory speech, and I'm going to just give the first line of that one. "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last!'

    "That's the way I feel, even as an election loser. Either way, I'm on vacation for awhile, thank God.

    "The second was a concession speech, which I'm also going to throw out, just because my speech writers wrote it, not me, and I don't agree it now.

    "They blamed the newspapers whose editorial writers came out against us. They blamed my opponent's personality. They blamed special interests, many of whom contributed big bucks to my opponent. And they even blamed the voters for not understanding our superior positions and intelligent stands on the issues.

    "To which I now say: We have no one to blame but ourselves. Mistakes were made. No, that's wrong. Let me rephrase: I made mistakes. It was my campaign and I take full responsibility.

    "I could have taken the high road, concentrating on what I have done, and more importantly what I plan to do for Iowa. I could have articulated a vision for Iowa that would have energized and galvanized the state for its march into the next century, concentrating on the environment, education, and the changing agricultural economy.

    "What did I do? I got lazy and complacent. I saw my big lead in the polls and just coasted. I thought the governorship was mine for the asking, and took the state's support for granted.

    "I even put out yard signs that proclaimed me as "Governor Lightfoot." That was my mistake, too. "

    And yes, I have to take responsibility for those silly nude juice bar ads, which I thought might turn voters off Vilsack. I now see that I underestimated voters, and for that I'm sorry.

    "Iowans may be conservative, but they aren't dumb.

    "So to all my campaign workers and supporters around the state, I apologize. I ran a lousy campaign, lost a huge lead, and inevitably (as I see now) the election.

    "And to be frank, I should have lost. In fact, my loss strengthens my faith in the electoral process. I now know that you really can't fool all the people all the time, and I'm thankful to the Vilsack people for reminding me.

    "Having learned that hard lesson, I will take time off, study the issues, and might return to politics another time, maybe a little sadder, but certainly much wiser."

    Had Lightfoot managed to make anything like that speech, he'd have supporters lined up to help with his next election.

    Of course, had he risen to that level of honesty during the campaign, a concession speech wouldn't have been necessary. 

    Go comment!
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    • Cedar Valley Chronicles
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  • Bill Clinton's Prayer Overheard

    • Posted on Aug 23, 1998

    8/23/98

    We’re not often privy to conversations between God and presidents, but since we know everything else about Bill Clinton, we may as well listen in on his prayers, too.

    And God’s replies.

    BILL: Dear God, I know that you know all about me and Monica. And I mentioned you in my speech the other night, saying it was between me and Hillary, Chelsea, and our God.

    GOD: Yes, Bill. I heard it all, and thanks for the mention. I don’t get much air time from politicians, as you know, except when they get caught.  So, you’re in a real jam, I see. What do you think I can do for you?

    BILL: Well, first you can explain why you gave me this terrible need to chase women. Other men seem to be able to resist temptation, but I can’t. Did you just make me wrong?

    GOD: I don’t make defective people, Bill. You should know that. If you’re alive and well, you’re capable of making choices. Don’t blame me for your problems.

    BILL: OK, God, that’s fair enough, but surely…

    GOD: Don’t blame Shirley, either.

    BILL: No, I meant that I had a rough childhood. I grew up with a terrible alcoholic father, I felt rejected and needy, and always turned to women for help. That’s why I love them so much now.

    GOD: Give me a break, Bill. Lots of men and women grow up that way and don’t risk their families and professional lives by acting on their sexual impulses. You’re just trying to get off the hook again.

    BILL: You mean I have a character flaw?

    GOD: I mean that you’re like all humans. You aren’t at the mercy of your impulses unless you want to be. So you just chose wrong, and you did this over and over, as you and I both know.

    BILL: Yes, I know that I can’t keep secrets from you. So you forgive me?

    GOD: To know all is to forgive all, as a wise human philosopher once said. That’s what I do best. But that still doesn’t mean much as far as you’re concerned.

    BILL: What? If you forgive me, and Hillary and Chelsea stay with me, and my political advisers and friends get over it, what else do I need?

    GOD: Bill, you had better think about that. If you believe that all you need is forgiveness, you’re not getting it.

    BILL: Oh, God, you’re going to make me think.

    GOD: Yes, Bill. It’s time you did that.

    BILL: So forgiveness isn’t enough, you say. But what else is there? I’m forgiven, so can’t I get on with being president, a great husband and father? My life will be fine if people just forgive me.

    GOD: Will it? Come on, Bill. Use that big brain on yourself for a change.

    BILL: For a change – ? Oh, I get it, God. You think I have to change. I can’t go on like I was.

    GOD: You got it, Bill. Forgiveness is the easy part. Now you have to earn it. If you get forgiven for repeating the same mistakes, that’s called enabling. Nobody wants that, including you.

    BILL: But I want to be accepted as I am, even with my flaws.

    GOD: Careful, Bill, you’re copping out again. People will accept your better side just fine, but you can’t ask them to accept what even you call wrong. They forgive because they expect you to change, and permanently. They forgave you about the Gennifer Flowers affair because they assumed you told the truth and that you had changed. But clearly you hadn’t.

    BILL: Ouch. That hurts.

    GOD: It should. You hurt others, and now it’s coming back to hurt you. That’s how I designed things, and it works pretty well.

    BILL: But this Ken Starr, he has no right to –

    GOD: Yes, and other presidents lied, too. Shame on you, Bill. You’re making excuses again, and it won’t work with me. Stop whining and start doing what you have to do.

    BILL: You know, for a merciful God, you can be pretty tough on a guy.

    GOD: Who do you think invented tough love? Ask Job.

    BILL: OK, so what exactly do I have to do, assuming I’m forgiven?

    GOD: Well, lots of people haven’t forgiven you. They’re waiting to see if you really have changed. You’ve already made your first mistake by criticizing Starr in your speech. That didn’t show much understanding of your problem.

    BILL: Oh, God. My advisers warned about that and I didn’t listen. I suppose I have to see a shrink and figure out my compulsions. Do you think I should resign?

    GOD: No, I think you could become a great man if you genuinely learn from this. You might even become a better president, since you’ve been forced to come clean as have few men.

    BILL: Well, that’s encouraging. Where do I start?

    GOD: Change, Bill. Redeem yourself by becoming a better man and showing it. Treat this as a great opportunity to learn and grow.

    BILL: Well, I guess I have no choice, God.

    GOD: You always have a choice, Bill. 

    Go comment!
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