An evening with the Clintons
Photo Courtesy of Daniel Mears/Detroit News

Last Friday Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke in Detroit at the Fox Theater about their lives and experiences in the political spotlight. This talk was one in a series of live events the Clintons are attending across North America. They were mediated and asked questions by none other than Ben Stiller, a famous actor, writer, producer and director. Stiller has been friends with the Clintons for many years, after donating millions to the Clinton Foundation and helping with the effort in Haiti.

Most of the discussion directed by Ben Stiller was about the Clintons’ personal lives. He asked them questions about their day-to-day lives and attempts to be normal people. An interesting question he asked was if they binge watch television. They answer was yes; they avoid the news, but they love to watch the Blacklist and Jeopardy. Bill said that they enjoy Madam Secretary because it’s the most realistic of the political shows available.

The two still like to read the newspaper every day, keeping up their traditions as children who grew up without television. They read the New York Times, the New York Post, and others. Hillary apparently enjoys analyzing the order in which stories appear throughout the pages, and looking for news that she wouldn’t come across online. Though they appear in the news themselves, they try to dissociate from those stories, given their history in the political spotlight for the last twenty years. It’s only natural that they shy away from it, after experiences with untrue information spreading about things they have said or done. They are very weary of fact vs. fiction when they go online.

Their worries with the news and social media is what it is doing to our attention spans. Bill and Hillary both voiced concerns about young people with high rates of anxiety and depression, and the relation to social media, especially around college campuses. Something that is both funny and a bit sad is that they said “How can you have a friend you’ve never met?” referring to how people meet on social media across the world.

The Clintons meet hundreds of people everywhere they go, and they value the stories people tell them. Hillary admitted that people seem to trust them and think they will help, so are willing to confide very personal stories about their lives. What the Clintons gain from these stories are information they would otherwise never know. In 2016, while campaigning, they heard stories about the opioid crisis before it was all over the news, and were able to use it to help their campaign, addressing their concerns about all the people dying from drugs.

Many people say that Bill Clinton was smoother than Kennedy in the way that he can speak to any audience and give them a real connection. He certainly enjoys using humor to get the crowd going, and often his comedic interjections are a relief from the serious topics in the discussion. Bill and Hillary both talked about their experiences in the White House, as Bill was President and Hillary was Secretary of State under Obama. Bill spoke about tough decisions he made concerning war; “Any time you think you can play war games without collateral damage, you’re wrong. So I tried to do things that would minimize the loss of life among Americans and minimize the loss of life of innocent civilians.” Hillary talked about her time as Secretary of State, when she had to brief Obama and Osama Bin Laden was taken down. They seem to really struggle with some of the decisions they’ve made, but confident that they were the right choices for Americans.

Ben Stiller continued to ask them questions bringing them back to their normal lives, trying to keep things light; “Was it fun being president?” “Yes” replied Bill. One of this favorite things about it was that he loved music, so people would come perform for him, and actors would come show him their new movies. There were a number of perks that came with his presidency. Though Hillary lost the Democratic primary thrice, they are looking forward to the 2020 election, but had no endorsement to give out. Hillary showed her approval with all the candidates and the diversity of the candidates, wanting to let these candidates run their own races and debate; “There were a lot of problems with the 2016 election, we don’t need to go into them, except to try to understand what happened so it doesn’t happen again.” She wants the voters to take the elections back from social media, Russian trolls, bots, and misleading information. It has now been proved through the Mueller report that Trump did not conspire to affect the elections, however, throughout the entire lecture, neither Bill or Hillary said Trump’s name one time, representing a lack of acknowledgement that she lost the election to him. They admitted that it’s not about slogans, because the Clintons have never used slogans. It’s more about politicians telling voters what they are going to do to take care of America.

The recent capture of Julian Assange was brought up, and Hillary took a very strong stance on her opinion of him. She said Assange was working with Russian intelligence and helping their government. He has never published damaging information on Russia even though people have given it to him. He will be prosecuted for working with Chelsea Manning and publicizing State Department information, including names of not only Americans, but foreign diplomats and people helping in other countries, putting them in imminent danger. He influenced the 2016 election, so naturally Hillary is very happy that Julian Assange will finally answer for what he has done.

The Clintons are enjoying their North American tour. By choosing their own mediators, they are able to prepare their own questions. This is great for an audience who really wants to see the Clintons as normal, kind people, and it keeps the discussion less heated and serious. These two have served this country for years and it’s very dutiful of them to go on a tour like this and especially interesting for them to have a comedic host like Ben Stiller.