Clinton campaign plagued by the price of sin, suits

ROGER SIMON

March 20, 1992|By ROGER SIMON

It was an average day in the life of Bill Clinton, which is to say the talk was of sin.

In the morning, at the Union Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago's near west side, the Rev. Marvin Alexander stood in front of his swaying, hand-clapping, white-robed choir and cut Bill Clinton some slack.

"The Bible says we have all sinned and all have come short!" Alexander said.

"Tell it!" shouted the congregation.

"If you're looking for perfection, stop," said Alexander.

"Praise God!" shouted the congregation.

"I am not concerned about the personal thing," Alexander said, turning directly toward Bill Clinton.

"Amen!" Bill Clinton thought to himself.

And we know he thought this to himself, because Clinton rose from his chair and came forward to the microphone and told us so.

"When your pastor said that I was not perfect, I started to stand up and say amen and lead the shout," Clinton said. "We know this is not a place for saints, but for sinners. Not a place for the strong, but for the weak. Not a place to come in and look down on others, but to look up to God."

And this is as near as Bill Clinton gets these days to admitting he is mortal.

In the afternoon, instead of hearing hosannas, Bill Clinton heard hollers.

He marched down the middle of Western Avenue on Chicago's southwest side in a huge parade. There were bands, bagpipes, balloons and two solid miles of people.

Some of the people were not so friendly to Bill Clinton.

"Hey, Bill!" one beefy young man in a crowd of beefy young men shouted at Clinton from the sidewalk. "Throw us some of your women!"

The people around the young man laughed.

Bill Clinton just kept walking.

Sue Quinn stood outside a Taco Bell, making thumbs down gestures at Clinton with both hands and booing at the top of her lungs.

When asked why, she said: "He's an adulterer!"

One block down, Keith Kilroy shouted, "You draft dodger!"

Kilroy then told a reporter he was going to vote for George Bush and dislikes Clinton "because he's dishonest. I don't care about Gennifer Flowers, but he's lying."

Bill Clinton just kept walking.

Later, when asked about the boos and shouts, Clinton said: "I got a lot more cheers. You are not going to get them all."

That evening, Bill Clinton faced his accusers up close.

The three lecterns stood within a few feet of each other. Behind the first stood Paul Tsongas, who now is out of the presidential race. Behind the second stood Jerry Brown. Behind the third stood Bill Clinton.

This was the 11th time the three had debated each other. And you might think they would chat a bit before the cameras were turned on.

But they did not. Each stood staring straight ahead, none glancing at the other.

Near the end of the debate, Jerry Brown raised the issue of Clinton's "electability."

Electability usually means "Can this guy get enough votes to win?"

In the case of Bill Clinton it means: "Is there so much dirt waiting to be dug up on this guy that he cannot win?"

Bill Clinton does not like to hear about electability. Especially not from Jerry Brown, who Clinton believes could not come in first in a one-man race.

And so, when Brown accused Clinton of funneling state money to his wife's law firm in Arkansas, Clinton went ballistic.

"Jerry comes here with his family wealth and his $1,500 suit and makes a lying accusation about my wife!" Clinton said, waving his finger in Brown's face.

After the debate, Brown was asked if he was wearing a $1,500 suit.

"This suit costs somewhere between $400 and $600," he said, taking the question as seriously as if he had been asked about national defense policy. "I think it was $499. I bought it in San Francisco. I will check out the exact price."

Later, Bill Clinton was asked what his own suit cost.

"I don't know," he said.

On Dec. 23, 1991, George Bush told an interviewer: "I will do what I have to do to be re-elected."

Could be he might not have to do that much.

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