TT with HD: Bill Clinton
[Ed. note: On 28 April, 2007 President William J. Clinton delivered a commencement address to
the group of graduating seniors from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan
inside the confines of Michigan Stadium. He arrived late to that ceremony.]
HD: First of all, welcome to the teeter totter!
BC: I appreciate the opportunity!
HD: My usual first order of business is to take the standard tottering photo. Did anyone explain that to you and, in general, how all this works?
BC: Sure, I'm used to cameras [laugh].
HD: But the teeter tottering part?
BC: Now this part of it, I haven't done in a while. But it's like riding a bicycle pretty much, right? Am I doing okay so far?
HD: You're doing great! But we have to pause the tottering motion for just a second so that I can take the picture.
BC: Oh, okay.
HD: Now, I hate to even ask you to do this, but do you think you could just grip the sides of the board instead of resting your hands on your knees?
BC: Like this?
BC: Now I see why you wanted me to wear the gloves! No handles on here!
HD: Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to make it seem like you had to wear them. You're actually the first person to take me up on the glove offer.
BC: Most people ride bare-handed?
HD: Mmmm, or else they bring their own gloves on account of the cold. If people wear gloves, it's because of the cold, usually. You know what, let me take a couple more of you with your hands on your knees like before. If you're gripping the board, it might look like you're holding on ...
BC: ... for dear life?
HD: Yeah. And the no-handed riding look might be more presidential, projects confidence, or trust. Or something.
BC: Somehow I doubt this is going to look presidential regardless of where I put my hands! But I think it'll look like me.
HD: You mean, you yourself don't think you look presidential in general??
BC: Well, by that I just mean that it will look like me, the person, be consistent with who I am as a person, not necessarily be a typical presidential posture. Does that make sense to you?
HD: Sure. Now, it was really surprising to me to get a phone call from your staff this morning, because a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from something called the Scheduling Department saying that your schedule would not allow time for a teeter totter ride--well, not a teeter totter ride, they said 'interview' I think--in any case, there wasn't time while you were in town. So, I had literally just gotten back from a run when they called, and I didn't have time even to change out of my running gear. I'm not complaining, for heaven sakes, I mean, I just wanted to explain why my attire isn't exactly suitable and apologize for my generally disheveled condition.
BC: No apology needed! From what I understand it was a little last-minute on our end. There was some miscommunication about how to fit all of our vehicles into the allocated space, so we wound up having some time that we needed to put to creative use, so someone on my staff said, ...
HD: ... wait up, 'fit all your vehicles into the allocated space' what does that mean?
BC: We travel with quite a few vehicles and before they drop me off, they need to get squared away where they're going to wait ...
HD: ... you're saying you couldn't find a place to park?
BC: Well, I suppose you might characterize it in that way. To be perfectly honest, I don't know the details of the situation. My limited intelligence briefing [laugh] on the matter was that the parking area originally allocated to our vehicles was assigned to someone else.
HD: Are you kidding me?? You don't happen to know who the someone else was, do you?
BC: I don't know. Like I say, I don't know the details. All I know is that Andrea--she's the aide on my staff who handles this kind of thing out here in the field--said there was an issue with parking the vehicles and that we could use the time to go for a scenic drive along a river or I could go for a ride on a see-saw. I thought, Hmm, a see-saw is something I haven't been on in a while, let's give that a try.
HD: So this was pitched to you as a see-saw ride, not as a teeter totter ride?
BC: Is there a difference?
HD: Not that I know of. I'm just curious to know how it was presented to you: see-saw or teeter totter.
BC: Mmmm, I think it was see-saw [Ed. note: Andrea nods that Yes, she did say 'see-saw' when suggesting the idea.]. Yes, it was 'see-saw'.
HD: So, is that what you called these in Arkansas when you were growing up, see-saws?
BC: Now that you ask, I'm not sure, but I think we called'em see-saws. I've certainly heard it called a teeter totter, if that's what you're asking.
HD: I'm not sure what I'm asking, to be honest. I'm a little discombobulated, because I didn't get up this morning thinking that I be sitting on a piece of wolmanized lumber with a former president.
BC: [laugh] And I didn't get up this morning thinking I would be riding a see-saw. Or teeter totter, either [laugh].
HD: On a slightly more serious note, I think it's interesting that both you and Al Gore, over the last two to three years, have managed to at least begin to redefine your legacies. I mean, Gore, if he had receded from public view, would have gone down in our collective memory as just that guy who had the election stolen from him. Now, everyone's association with him is just global warming and polar bears--and I'm not saying he took that up as a cause just to change his legacy, I'm just sayin', you know. And your Foundation, plus your collaboration with former-President Bush on tsunami relief efforts among other things, has perhaps started to redefine your legacy as something different from what it was at the end of your second term. Would you say that's a fair assessment?
BC: Well, Dave, I certainly appreciate your mentioning the work that the Foundation is doing--and the work that President Bush and I have done together and will perhaps continue to do in the future. But I'm also proud of what we accomplished in my two terms as President. Yes, I made some mistakes, but there's a lot I'm proud of, too. These days, though, I'm putting my full effort into the work of the Foundation. Young people are an important part of that work. Which is why I'm delighted to have the opportunity to speak to the graduates over at the University later this morning.
HD: At some point, some of your effort and time will be redirected from the Foundation into Senator Clinton's presidential campaign, or?
BC: Today's address to the students is not going to be a campaign speech, if that's what you're asking.
HD: You figure she'll win?
BC: I'm not going to sit here on a teeter totter and say, She's gonna win! But I think she's the best candidate, she'll lead the country in the right direction, and the country will be very well served if we elect her.
HD: But seriously--woah, JEEZ, watch yourself!! Are you OKAY?
BC: This isn't as easy as it looks!
HD: Holy Cow, what happened?
BC: I'm okay, I think my hand slipped inside this glove lining, or maybe they're a little too big for me.
HD: That could be. You have big hands, but the gloves make them seem positively paw-like!
BC: Yeah, paws! Raaaahr, I'm a polar bear!! [Ed. note: BC raises his 'paws' up as bears will do.]
BC: You know, like the ones that Al Gore says are disappearing.
HD: Oh, yeah. I get it.
BC: Well, listen, I hate to teeter and run, but Andrea just gave me the sign that we have to wrap this up and head out.
HD: Well, it's been an honor.
BC: For me as well!