So Bill Clinton got kinda upset yesterday when a couple of Black Lives Matter protesters showed up at his speaking event yesterday in Philadelphia, one of whom held up a sign saying that his wife Hillary is a murderer. Most husbands I know would tend to get upset at someone who referred to their spouse as a murderer, so I’m not one of those who considers himself shocked that Big Bill got miffed. Granted, he is a veteran campaigner who knows more than most just how ugly it can get on the campaign trail, and how thick your skin better be, but the man is still human.
That being said, even the former president had to acknowledge today, one day after he blew a fuse, that perhaps he didn’t handle that episode as well as he should have. He screwed up, in other words. Hecklers are part of the scenery on campaign trails, and for Clinton to voluntarily donate 10 minutes of his speaking time to two hecklers wasn’t just unusual, it was more like WTF..?
But then again, here’s something I think much of the media missed about the exchange: Bill Clinton actually engaged the protesters. Granted, he was overly defensive, and you could love or hate his responses, but unlike Donald Trump he didn’t portray them as horrible human beings nor did he gleefully have them tossed out. Nor did the crowd of Clinton supporters attack the protesters, stomp on them, or spit on them as Bill stood by and watched with a smile. He let them have their say and he actually tried to answer their criticisms with information. You can say his information was warped, that his perspective was slanted the wrong way, or you could say he really let those kids have it with the facts. Frankly it doesn’t matter, because the obvious point that they disagreed is not the point worth paying attention to.
What’s worth paying attention to is that Bill Clinton still respected the protesters’ rights to loudly disagree with him enough that he was willing to step into the ring, even at the risk of embarrassing himself. And that is no small thing.