When you see a saxophone on stage at Brooklyn Bowl and know Bill Clinton is moments away from walking on, you have to wonder whether he’s going to go full Arsenio. Sadly, he did not jump in with the Wailers as they performed a couple of Marley hits, “One Love” and “Could You Be Loved,” at last night’s fundraiser for Hillary Clinton. But it’s still safe to say everyone who forked over $250 and up got their money’s worth.
And no, that’s not because attendees got free pints of Brooklyn Brewery and the opportunity to pose for photos with a cardboard cutout of Hillary, or with funny hats, feather boas, tiaras, and “I’m With Her” signs. For starters, it was because Ana Gasteyer, one of seven SNL cast members to have played Hillary, had some fun zingers about her home borough: “Brooklyn is the only place where the tiny, tiny shorts that Bill used to jog in are probably still in style.”
Having addressed it earlier this week, Gasteyer didn’t mention the nutso conspiracy theory that Ted Cruz is actually Robert Kardashian and she’s masquerading as his wife. But she did explain why she’d like to see Donald Trump lose to Marco Rubio: “It would be so ironic to see Donald Trump get dumped for a younger, hotter candidate.” Her best line, though, was about the vacant Supreme Court seat: “We as New Yorkers don’t want to see that seat as being anything like the subway. And by that I mean having that seat taken by a selfish white dude who pretends not to see the pregnant lady.”
Senator Chuck Schumer was considerably sterner about SCOTUS, listing a litany of backwards rulings and then warning: “This court, if it doesn’t change, is going to send America back to the 1890s, believe me. Under John Roberts— who knows, unfortunately, just what he’s doing— they’re taking the major structural underpinnings of progress and ripping them out one by one.”
In case you’re wondering, Schumer didn’t robotically repeat “knows just what he’s doing” four times. But he did borrow some of the opposition’s parlance, twice saying that Hillary had a “burning in her heart” (she feels the bern!) and also insisting, “She knows why people are angry and upset, but Hillary’s reaction is not simply to lash out at those who have caused our problems, as legitimate as that is, but to find solutions and make America – to coin a phrase – great again.”
Also in the house last night were actors Mary-Louise Parker and Hill Harper (neither of whom spoke) and Jeffrey Wright, who said he had learned valuable lessons from the Clinton Foundation’s work in Africa and had applied them to his own work training cacao farmers there. “If you’ve got a boutique organic chocolate company out there and you want some good product…” he offered, in what may or may not have been a sly wink at the Mast Brothers debacle.
Wright also mentioned the Clinton Foundation’s work fighting ebola, an achievement the former president also touted when he took the stage. “We almost wept together when the ebola epidemic was attacking Liberia and Guinea and Sierra Leone,” said Bill, instantly shaming everyone who cracked eBOWLa jokes back when the infected doctor visited the Gutter.
Clocking in at about 40 minutes, Clinton’s spiel was perfectly Clintonian, full of statistics about the success of his own presidency. But before he got to humblebragging, he weighed in on the SCOTUS snafu: “The president should make an appointment, and the senate should deal with it,” he said, citing a New York Times chart showing that “the longest fight we had was over Justice Thomas, it was 100 days. We have plenty of time to vet a proposed nominee. And this is really important.”
Though most in the crowd seemed old enough to have paid off their student loans (the event’s dress code was “business casual,” after all), Clinton spoke to “a lot of very, very angry Millennials” stymied by debt and low wages. He outlined a couple of Hillary’s solutions, including the refinancing of student loans, and quoted a teary-eyed college loan officer who told him that Hillary’s plan was “light years better for Millennials.”
Among the other parts of Hillary’s platform Bill touted were universal broadband, investments in solar and wind power, paid family leave and equal pay, police and prison reform, and comprehensive immigration reform. “Hillary has been the most outspoken person against this crazy debate in the other party calling for the deportation of Muslims and basically demonizing them,” he said. “It’s nuts. We’re fighting a war in the brains of more than a billion people– we cannot win that without the support of American Muslims who believe we can all live together in peace…” he said, before he was drowned out by applause.
Rest assured, he also called out Mr. “Make America Hate Again” by name: “Even if Mr. Trump puts up his fence across the Rio Grande he won’t be able to shut out the social media. It was the social media that drove those people in San Bernardino to do what they did.”
The Future First Gentleman, as he was described on the invite, also had some words for supporters of Hillary’s opponent on the Democratic side. “I don’t mind all this enthusiasm and I’m glad all these young people want to vote,” said Bill, presumably referring to Berners. “The only thing I object to is the absence of serious debate and discussion. Now, you know, it’s a closed system—if you disagree, you’re just part of the establishment.” He cited Paul Krugman’s criticisms of Bernie’s economics: “One of the most liberal economists writing in America today, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, he said the numbers don’t add up. They say, ‘He’s part of the establishment.’” He also brought up a study by health care expert Kenneth Thorpe that found that Bernie’s plan is underfunded and would cause many to pay more. “Oh, he’s just part of the establishment,” Bill mimicked. (Another recent study, initiated by Sanders, concluded that his plan, while costly, would be a “significant stimulus to an economy that continues to underperform.”)
But let’s remember, this was all about Hillary. The Future First Gentleman reminded everyone of that by touting her post-law-school work with the Children’s Defense Fund, her push to expand legal aid in the Ozark mountains and, when she was first lady of Arkansas, her fight for education reform. He also mentioned later accomplishments like pushing sanctions on Iran.
“She is the best single change maker I’ve ever met, and she has been since I first met her, 40 years ago next month,” Clinton said. Then he corrected himself: “45 years ago next month. We’ve been married for 40 years– she turned me down the first two times I asked.” There was laughter as he added: “Smart woman.”