Driving into the city from Newark, I got a crystal clear view of the two shafts of blue lights rising into the air from the World Trade Center site. The driver asked what brought me to town. "A meeting," I said. "I'm a political writer. A handful of us have been invited to meet with President Clinton just to talk." "Ask him what he'd do about this mess in Iraq," my driver told me. "Find out how he'd solve this thing we're in."
I didn't get to ask President Clinton what he'd do with Iraq. But it did come up frequently in the wide ranging discussion we had when we sat down with Mr. Clinton for lunch at the Clinton Foundation office in Harlem. But he did talk about Iraq, and healthcare, the Medicare drug benefit, energy policy, the estate tax, homeland security and protecting our ports, global warming, blogging, and just about everything else you can imagine. The least of which was "The Path to 9/11" and the fantastic work the blogging community did in the past 10 days in making it an issue. Yes, he reads the blogs, and has been for a while. That's why we were there.
It was a fascinating few hours, starting late and running well over schedule, as is usually the case with President Clinton, from what I understand. We didn't get to have the kinds of nuts and bolts political discussion that I'd love to have--what kind of strategy would he advise for canddiates in 2006. Is there a place of his "third way" politics when you're running against the most venal incarnation of the Republican party we've seen in generations. What would he do if he were to find himself back in the Oval Office tomorrow, and had to figure out what to do about Iraq.
What we did talk about was the rise of the left-wing blogs as a reality-based medium. He's very impressed by the amount of research and fact-checking that happens on the blogs on a daily basis, particulary compared to the traditional media. (Kind of makes you want to double-check everything you write, knowing that Bill Clinton is reading, huh?) He was impressed and grateful for the work done in pushing into the mainstream the travesty that the ABC/Disney movie was. He encouraged Democrats running for election this year to run as Democrats--to not run away from the party, and to stand tough on Iraq--regardless of their position on troop reductions, pull-out, whatever. The issue is making this administration and the GOP Congress that enables it accountable for the massive national security challenges we still face that haven't been addressed in the five years since September 11.
It was also a great chance to meet up again with bloggers from all over the country who are usually just names on the screen. We're there in this picture I stole from Jeralyn at TalkLeft. But Matt stole it first. John (the real photographer) has more at AMERICAblog. My camera batteries died, so all my pictures didn't turn out, but at least it was well chronicled by others.