He came, he saw, he shmoozed. And he even offered qualified praise for his successor in the presidency, George W. Bush, did former president Bill Clinton. Clinton appeared Friday night at a fundraiser at the East Memphis home of Gwen and John Montague for fellow Arkansas Democrat Jimmie Lou Fisher, last year's unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in the state next door.
Addressing a full house Ñ overwhelmingly composed of Arkies, with a scattering of Memphis Democrats Ñ Clinton skated over the recent Iraqi war and in general commended Bush's conduct of the war on terrorism, cautioning that Americans should maintain vigilance against future terrorist attacks like that of 9/11. "They'll hit us again, but they'll never beat us," Clinton said.
The former president, who in his remarks to the crowd at large did not mention either his vice president, Al Gore, nor any of the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates, said the economy and the growing national debt would be and should be major issues against Bush in next year's presidential election.
"The national debt doesn't mean anything to the average person because the recession has kept interest rates low," Clinton elaborated to an attendee, adding, "But if and when the economy picks up, rates will go sky high. When that happens, people will focus on it and see that the national government is competing with the private sector in the money market."
Earlier, Clinton had boasted to the crowd that he had actually been "more conservative" on fiscal matters than Bush and recalled that he had balanced the budget and actually had a surplus.
Prominent Tennessee Democrats in attendance included former Governor Ned McWherter and state Senator Roy Herron, both of Dresden. Among the Memphians on hand were Jim Strickland, Janice Lucas, and Sarah Hohenberg.