Just Try Me

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Here’s how this is gonna go from now on.

– If we meet and I find out you voted for Donald Trump and continue to support his policies I will confront you.

– I will confront you if you are a friend, relative or a friend of a friend or relative.

– I will confront you on social media even if I don’t know you but you are posting on a friend or follower’s page.

-I will confront you if you are in my home, at a dinner party, on the street, in a restaurant, at the movies and, most especially in front of people we know.

– I will confront you and I will be tireless. I won’t stop. Seriously. I will have an answer for every argument you posit and I will not hesitate to roll around in the mud with you, no matter how nasty and dismissive your argument gets.

– I will confront you because there is no time to be nice and to pretend that you have not wrapped your arms around someone who is a mentally imbalanced pathological liar, corrupt, racist, sexist and bereft of morality. Someone who doesn’t read, is not very smart and is a threat not only to the country but to the very existence of the world.

– I will confront you because time is ticking and it is not on my side. In fact, it is not on your side either but you are too brainwashed, prejudiced or set in your ways to look at reality.

mic drop

mic drop

I really wouldn’t care to engage with you at all if I didn’t have to share the world with you. I’d let you and your kind burn to the ground at this point. But being that we have to breathe the same air – at least while we can breathe  it – I will attempt to persuade you into reality using what has always been the most effective means at my disposal – words. Yes, I will listen to you but I will not indulge your fantasies, your fake news or your claimed past history of being a decent human being. Everything about you is indecent at this point. If you knew better or had any morality left you’d be ashamed.

I won’t go through a litany of what the Pres. Elect (who lost the popular vote by more than 2.8 MILLION and counting) has done in the last few weeks. Things like appointing a woman to head the Dept. of Education who doesn’t believe in public schools, a guy to head the Environmental Protection Agency who doesn’t believe in global warming, a billionaire businessman to head the Dept. of Labor who doesn’t believe in the minimum wage and a religious homophobe to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development who admits his only experience for the job is that he was “raised in the inner city.”

Oh! And he owns a home too! #wowie

Oh! And he owns a home too! #wowie

Here’s what I will do. I will mention and provide a link to the Washington Post expose that just came out detailing the undeniable evidence that both the CIA and FBI have proof Vladimir Putin and Russia spent the last year trying to influence voters and tilt the election to Trump with fake news, massive computer hacking and god knows what else (oh and this NY Times piece too). If we meet in person or online I will make a good case to you that given Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort became a very wealthy man working for Russian and Ukranian oligarchs it is logical and likely the campaign and the candidate himself had at the very least knowledge of this and more probably aided and abetted them. I will also share several stories I’ve heard over the last few years from very wealthy people that the working class billionaire Pres. Elect himself had become HEAVILY in debt to Russian banks and billionaires in order to keep his financial empire afloat and that, until his emergence in the Republican field, was denied much if any bank credit in this country anymore. No I can’t legally prove that but ask yourself another question – why does Trump go out of his way to NEVER criticize Putin or Russia or ANY of their military or financial misdeeds when there is almost NO ONE in the world other than family and a handful of fellow billionaires, and certainly not a SINGLE OTHER COUNTRY, who he has not criticized?

Two is just not enough

Two is just not enough

Also ask yourself, why were Republican members of Congress actively attempting to suppress all information about Russia’s involvement in our election while the election was going on – so much so that Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened Pres. Obama with an orchestrated smear of political bias if he dared to speak out about how widespread our government believed the Russians were in influencing the election?

Oh, and I will also ask you this follow-up question: “If you claim to love this country as much as you say you do, and the idiot Elect claims to, and the Republican members of Congress say they do, and you all truly want to “make America great again” (whatever the hell that means) – “Why does all of this not matter to you?”

... but saying this sends you into a tailspin. #priorities

… but saying this sends you into a tailspin. #priorities

What I won’t argue about is that Pres. Obama, born uniter and glass half full scholar in chief that he is, should have screamed the truth as loud and as strong as he could from the presidential bully pulpit and let all the chips fall where they might. Perhaps he had information we all didn’t but it’s hard to imagine that whatever he knew could possibly be worse than the outcome we’ve already gotten. Still, the end of the story has not been written yet and he’s a lot smarter than I am so perhaps there is a method to his momentary madness. At least I hope so.

Barack, whatcha gonna do?

Barack, whatcha gonna do?

You are welcome to say things to me like liberals can’t hear opposing views, you’re exaggerating and why don’t you give the guy a chance. I’ve heard them all and have well-reasoned responses. You can also call me a Jew or a fag or mutter other epithets under your breath because I’ve heard all of those recently and through my life and know just what to shoot back online or in person with the likes of those of you who will do that. I and my kind don’t scare easily so give it your best shot but don’t try to sell me on the idea that Trump’s senior advisor Steve Bannon isn’t a rabid anti-Semite and a racist. That really insults my intelligence and what little you have left.

I see you... and I'm not taking my eyes off of you

I see you… and I’m not taking my eyes off of you

By the way, you might be interested to know how I finally reached my tipping point with you. Strangely enough, it was the NBC live broadcast this past week of the Broadway musical Hairspray. It’s a cream puff of show but it thematically does deal with a chubby girl who tries to integrate a local TV dance show in the early sixties and has to battle a gaggle of privileged and unprivileged white people who down to their very souls believe Blacks are inferior – as is anyone who is overweight, or who is skinny and wears glasses, or is, well, even a little different from them.

Thank you perfectly polished NBC cast #evenyouArianna #especiallyyouderek

Thank you perfectly polished NBC cast #evenyouAriana #especiallyyouderek

When this show debuted on Broadway more than 10 years ago it was fun and nostalgic and was a reminder of a hard fought history lesson. This week it was strangely relevant and resonant and all too timely. It spoke to a new era under an incoming president whose supporters scream his name at rallies with Hitler-like salutes, spew hate-speak at minorities nationwide in public places, and shout down, threaten and troll online and in person anyone who dares to vehemently disagree with him. I was a kid when these battles were fought and I’ll be damned if in my third act of life I’m going to let the likes of you drag us back 50 years in time.

And no, I’m not going to give the white working class of this country a big warm hug for tolerating lies and racism so they could have a national temper tantrum that will endanger the safety of the entire global community. We’re all hurting in different ways. But there are lines that are not crossed.   And once crossed we confront them. So stay tuned and get used to people like me being right up in your face because this won’t let up for at least the next four years. You’re not going to drag us down to the gutter of beliefs where you have so very unwisely chosen to live.

Oh, and indeed, you are a basket of deplorables. Though that’s the nice term.

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Herstory

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Hillary Clinton made history this week when she became the first female nominee from one of the two major parties in the U.S. for president. Then several days later Sen. Elizabeth Warren became the darling of left, center and center-right wing sanity by giving a rousing takedown speech eviscerating Republican nominee Donald Trump as both a loud, nasty, thin-skinned fraud and a small, insecure, thin-skinned, wannabe tyrant.

Normally it’s not recommended to repeat adjectives like thin-skinned twice in alternating phrases but in this case it didn’t matter. Sen. Warren’s acumen at knowing just which buttons to push in The Republican Apprentice scored such public adoration that talk quickly grew that she was the leading contender for Hillary’s Veep spot (Note: One feels compelled to call her Hillary these days since that’s the catch phrase on her posters and how she signs all of her fundraising emails – at least to me).

We're all ears

We’re all ears

I, for one, was immediately thrilled at the possibility of two women on the ticket. I mean, how could they do any worse and what better way to get misogynist Trump’s goat, right? But looking across to my 87-year-old father, who I know has always loved Mrs. Clinton, as he calls her, and for just as long has always loathed that ass h-le Trump, as he refers to him, it occurred to me to ask –

Uh Dad, do you think having two women on the ticket matters to men in their 70s and 80s?

Silence. And then in one word he answered — 

Yes.

When I told him it didn’t matter to me he quickly retorted that I wasn’t in my 70s or 80s. When I mentioned it didn’t matter to him he just shrugged it off. How I interpreted the latter was, at this point in life I don’t really know why some people are so small-minded and I really don’t care. Can’t we just watch the basketball game or at least Turner Classic Movies?

Indeed

Indeed

I mean, how long do we have to endure the women discussion anyway? After watching news analysts of both genders questioning all day whether the nation could accept having a duo of females as our numbers 1 and 2, my mind began to drift to March 24, 2002. Do you know what day that was? I didn’t think you did. It was actually the evening that Halle Berry became the first African-American female to win best actress (Oscar, that is) and Denzel Washington became only the second African-American male in history to win best actor.

Yes, our TWO best American thespians that year were…Black! That hadn’t even happened before and that was 12 years ago. Not to mention we’ve actually had one Black # 1 in the White House for almost eight years since then. So given that more than another decade has gone by isn’t it about time two women were awarded both #1 and #2 in the same year?

The time is now

The time is now

Never mind that this is the logic by which an illogical mind works. It still doesn’t make it any less true. And are we really going to have a serious discussion about this? Can’t we watch Turner Classic Movies? I’d even consider tuning into a basketball g…. Actually, on second thought – No.

Of course, no sooner did Hillary win and Sen. Warren lambaste Mr. Thin of Skin that the barrage of Trump insults started again. (Note: Remember, he’s a self-proclaimed counter puncher who always hits bad hard):

By now anticipating such witty outrage, Sen. Warren’s staff actually bought the domain www.pocahontas.com that immediately redirects you to the Elizabeth Warren for Senate page. Among other things, it lists her personal blog and facts about the senator and where she stands on all of the major issues of the day.

(Note: For those still a bit confused, Pocahontas is the taunt this year’s Republican nominee proverbially hurls at the Senator, who he seems to be convinced is not, as she has claimed, part Native American. Though he never did try to pretend Pres. Obama wasn’t Black, Mr. Trump did first burst onto the contemporary political scene several years ago when he tried to claim our POTUS was not native born in the U.S,. as he and his birth certificate clearly state, and is therefore disqualified from being our #1 despite winning the office by many, many millions of votes. Twice).

A blast from the very recent past

A blast from the very recent past

However one feels about Sen. Warren, Mr. Trump or Pres. Obama isn’t it nice to be reading about the latest insult, punch back, scandal or near indictment that will ultimately never happen against Hillary – even if it’s just for a little bit? You’re welcome. But stay turned. This week the Drumpf-enator promises a national speech that will blow the lid off of how Hillary and Bill Clinton have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling access through the Clinton Foundation and how she, in particular, used the State Department as her own private hedge fund during her tenure as Secretary of State.

This leaves me just about enough time to learn the rules of basketball. Which I’ll begin right after my five month marathon watching Turner Classic Movies in every spare waking moment that I have. What are your plans? And please don’t be insulted that I asked.

 

I’m Rubber, You’re Glue

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I was listening to talk radio this week and heard Ann Coulter referring to Pres. Obama as a monkey three times in 3 minutes.  Then I heard Rush Limbaugh calling the Obama policy in Syria Operation Shuck and Jive twice in just one minute.

Normally I don’t pay attention to this kind of stuff or these kinds of people (that’s hate-speakers, not conservatives) because, well, I’ve learned over the years we have a limited time on Earth and really should pick and choose who and what we spend our time on.

But to not pay attention to this sort of thing is also absolving your responsibility as a thinking member of society.   That’s not right and it’s insidious.  And the more you ignore the more it becomes a kind of allowable “norm” people can get away with.

George Carlin famously talked of the seven dirtiest words you can’t say on television, all of which you can now say on cable and some of which you can periodically get away with on the networks. (They are: shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits – all of which you can say in a blog!).  Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and a long list of many others also challenged us with language that could be deemed offensive.

Don Rickles, the last of the old school Rat Pack-related comedians from the bygone Vegas era of entertainers, pioneered a variation of this kind of thing in the most mainstream way in the sixties when he evoked racial epithets for pretty much any ethnic group you can think of.   But part of his success was being an equal opportunity offender – no group, including his own, was safe.   Andrew Dice Clay tried another brand of this humor two decades later in the eighties by personifying the most chauvinistic black-leathered jacketed working class asshole from the boroughs or Jersey or anywhere else you can think of.  But he quickly faded away, mostly because he almost solely went after women in a very ugly way and partly because he committed the cardinal sin – he wasn’t nearly as funny as his predecessors (Note: ADC portrays a defanged version of this character in Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, a performance that probably works a lot better for those who don’t remember the Diceman’s original act).

What do you do with all this?   Are words, in themselves, offensive?  Why could Richard Pryor (and now Chris Rock) say the “N” word but when I say it, it takes on another meaning.

It’s all about context.  And intention.

I shudder to even post this image.

I shudder to even post this image.

Moreover, why do Windbag Rush and Annie the Terrible purposely use their offensive terminology in order to provoke favor with like-minded thinkers and non-thinkers alike who are salivating for some new form of socially acceptable hate speak?

It’s all about changing the Norms of Context.  And it’s very, very, very intentional.

Also this week, Soviet president Vladimir Putin chastised the US in a NY Times op-ed piece for daring to talk about American “exceptionalism,” concluding with this thought:  We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.  Well, that sounds good but some months ago Putin began strictly enforcing new laws that allow his government to exorbitantly fine and arrest anyone who engages in homosexual activity, or even publicly approves of any sort of pro-gay activities.  Gays can’t marry, adopt or, if they’re vocal about it, teach (Note to Self: Cancel my trip to Russia).  So there goes his written plea for equality for all of God’s creations– right out the Kremlin window and right behind anyone listening to a Bette Midler album.  This also begs the question of what he plans to do with Atheists – who don’t ask the Lord for any sort of blessings because they don’t believe a God created anyone.  One shudders to even consider the punishment for that.

Forget about context and intention.  You now can add truth and hypocrisy to the list.

There are ways to think about our differences and there are ways to exploit them.  More importantly, there are many ways to express them.  Not all, but many people who are in the public eye are smart enough to know exactly what they are saying.  Certainly there is the occasional gaffe and arguably there is nowadays a whole class of speakers who just wander into the spotlight and are uninformed.  But you and I usually know who they are.  And we certainly know that’s not who we’re speaking about here.

Ya'll talkin' bout me?

Ya’ll talkin’ bout me?

When Putin, Coulter, Limbaugh, Carlin, Clay and all the others speak they know EXACTLY what they’re saying and why.  They choose their words for particular reasons because it is their living to do so.  They get (or got) paid handsomely for it.  And as such, they’ve earned an answer when they go over the line.  This is also the case for people in your life, or those within earshot adjacent to your life.  They’re not getting paid but they’re occupying your space and opening their mouths.  At last check, the US (not Russia) was essentially a freedom-of-speech-loving country where you not only get to say anything but get to be answered back within the confines of the law.  Hate speakers don’t get to have a one-sided conversation as they call you out for being too politically correct while they hide behind the mantle of free speech.  The latter cuts both ways.  If they have the right to speak as they do (and they do), we all have the obligation to call them out when we believe their heinous words and thoughts are polluting the environment in which we must live – both literally and figuratively.

That’s why comedian Richard Belzer was totally justified to call Ann Coulter a fascist party doll in 2006 when he threatened to walk off of Real Time with Bill Maher as Maher began to introduce her.  He was reacting to a myriad of Coulter statements that came before this appearance, stuff like My only regret is that Timothy McVeigh (the Oklahoma City bomber) didn’t go into the NY Times building or that the 9-11 widows are reveling in their status as celebrities…I have never seen people enjoying their husband’s deaths so much.

Of course, all of those were said several years before we had our first Black president so Ms. Coulter, a best-selling author in the tens of millions, has had to up her game.  How do you answer an educated person who knowingly likens the most famous Black Man in America (nee the WORLD) to a phrase that was commonly used and drawn in the antebellum South to describe the Simian nature of their former slaves???

An American artifact from 1900.

An American artifact from 1900. That would be 113 years ago…

The correct answer is not:  she doesn’t deserve an answer.  The correct answer is to tell the Ann Coulter in your life, or the one you overhear, exactly what you think – in a word, or phrase, or something longer (and perhaps, preferably, with something sharper).

Don’t take this for a second to mean that we’re letting Mr. Limbaugh off scot-free.  If these are truly our public airwaves, what do you now say to someone who uses the term “shuck and jive” to describe a Black president’s policies?  As Mr. Limbaugh understands, that’s a phrase that came into being when black slaves sang and shouted gleefully during corn-shucking season and evolved in common usage as way to indicate Black people who were clowning and lying.

Obama’s a sla-ave, Obama’s a sla-ave, O- ba-ma’s the N word, O-ba-ma’s the N word…,

you can hear Limbaugh taunting.

Well, you can now see why current Senator Al Franken had no other choice than to write:

Rush Limbaugh’s a big fat idiot, Rush Limbaugh’s a big fat idiot!

But that book was almost 10 years ago and Rushbo has gone into entirely new territory here.  What do we, or anyone, say back to him now?

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I’m waiting….

No – the correct answer is not to ignore him.  Not for this.  Not in this case.

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Certainly, we all make our own choices in these situations.  In 1993, the only African American female Senator in the history of the US Congress was Carol Moseley Braun.  (Note: Ms. Moseley Braun served as a senator from Illinois, a seat Barack Obama would 10 years later be elected to).  This week, The Rachel Maddow Show reported on a much repeated story of what happened in the Senate elevator at that time when ultra conservative and virulent racial separatist, North Carolina’s five term (that’s 30 years) senator, Jesse Helms, found himself riding up in the elevator with Sen. Moseley Braun.  This very white senator from the South looked this very Black senator from the North straight in the eye and began singing “Dixie” (Oh, I wish I were in the land of cotton…)” in the elevator, turning to Utah Sen. Orin Hatch and saying “I’m gong to make her cry.  I’m going to keep singing Dixie until I make her cry.”

Yes, this is a true story and it took place in the nineties.  And no, it is not about Mr. Helms being a product of another time and place.   It is about a particular type of viciousness that needs to be addressed in the moment – or after – not by turning your cheek but by turning into the punch and retorting in some way that you see fit.  In the case of CMB, she decided to respond by looking straight back at him, saying: ‘Sen. Helms, your singing would make me cry if you sang ‘Rock of Ages.”

You go, Carol.

You go, Carol.

Incidentally, this encounter was supposedly prompted by Sen. Moseley Braun successfully leading a fight on the Senate floor the previous month to defeat an amendment by Helms that would allow the renewal of the patent on the Confederate flag insignia by a group called the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Get the point, yet?

Have times changed in 2013 when a person thought to be a minority (Pres. Obama) chooses to live or govern in a way that a particularly vocally virulent person in the public eye thought to be in the majority (Mr. Limbaugh? Ms. Coulter?) doesn’t want them to live or govern?  Clearly not.  And what about then Senator Moseley Braun’s response?  I, for one don’t think it went nearly far enough.  But the deafening silence to Coulter and Limbaugh’s remarks seems to indicate we’ve backtracked from there to a strategy of no answer necessary.

It would be nice to think this is because we’ve come far since then and incidents like these are fading into the woodwork.  But I don’t think so.  In fact, I think it’s quite the opposite.

For years I had my own response to people like Sen. Helms, who all through his terms (which only ended in 2001) refused to fund AIDS research and was virulently anti-gay  (e.g. homosexuals are “weak, morally sick wretches”).  As I watched him trying to defund gay artists of any kind from the National Endowment of the Arts (and the entire NEA itself) at a time when I was also watching many gay friends and acquaintances die left and right from AIDS, I signed petitions against him, wrote letters and gave money.

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And — in my bathroom for years hung this famous Robbie Conal poster that read ART OFFICIAL with Helm’s hideous image drawn below it.  It served as a reminder to me and everyone who ever stepped in front of, on, or near my toilet that Sen. Helms was totally full of shit.

Hey, we all do what we can.

Note:  I’ve purposely left out of the conversation Sarah Palin, who has used monkey, shuck and jive and many other terms to describe the first Black president.  This is because Cruella (as Aaron Sorkin so aptly labeled her several years ago) has a dwindling audience and now falls into the don’t waste your limited time on Earth category. Well, unless it allows us to bring back Tina…

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Owning the room

“They can smell desperation a mile away,” was the harsh assessment from a very successful and wealthy (not the same thing) friend of mine years ago when I was going through a particularly dry employment stage.

“Screw you,” I thought, “I’m not desperate!  And even if I am, the projects I’m pitching are great and I am charming, funny and exude confidence no matter how I’m feeling.  So I know for a FACT you’re wrong and that it doesn’t have anything to do with that!”

“or ….does it?”

After all these years I hate to admit — Yeah, it does.

It’s easy to preach this sort of advice from high atop your pile of money or at your “A” table or house in the snazziest neighborhood in town.   Certainly easier than doing it from a broken down kitchen table in a crumbling studio apartment where you can hear your neighbors’ every footstep at all hours of the day or night.

Well, not necessarily.

The reality is – it’s all about ownership.  Of yourself, of the idea and…of the outcome – meaning you’re not even thinking about whether it’s good or bad, that’s how much you believe in what you’re doing or saying.  The latter is the toughest, especially when you’re desperate.  How do you pretend you don’t care when your very life and livelihood depends on it?  Because your life and livelihood never DEPENDS on it.  Repeat:  It NEVER does.

Workin’ it.

Former President Bill Clinton gave the master class in ownership this past week when he addressed the Democratic National Convention in a highly detailed 48-minute speech on economic and governmental policy that had most of the nation, and worldwide audience, at the edge of their seats.  How do you do that in an age where even the ratings of “30 Rock” and “The Office” have slipped while “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” is enjoying a never-ending ratings surge?

Consider the following wrong answers:

  1. Bill Clinton has a near genius I.Q. (approximately 137) so he can pretty much do anything.
  2. Bill Clinton is rich and not motivated by money so he doesn’t care about success or failure anymore.
  3. Bill Clinton is selling someone else (Pres. Obama) and everyone knows it’s easier to do that than to sell yourself.
  4. Bill Clinton was speaking to a crowd of people already on his side.  He was preaching to the choir!  There’s NO degree of difficulty there!!!

Really.  Isn’t this the guy who was impeached from the presidency in national disgrace, reviled by half of the country and most of its women AND nearly died from heart disease just a few short years ago?  How do you make a public comeback from that no matter how smart you are and how much money you have in our cynically cynical A.D.D. age of fact-checked, slogan-bloated, generically engineered reality?

Here’s a thought – by knowing what you’re saying and standing by who and what you are and what you believe no matter the outcome.

Let’s break those wrong answers down.

Piece of cake.

1. Genius and talent. As a person who has traveled through the businesses of entertainment, politics and academia through most of my life I’ve met some incredibly brilliant and talented people.  I mean, so smart that it might make you never want to utter a sentence again and so talented that you have the urge to never, ever even attempt to try to do anything original in your field because this person has already gotten there and done it way better than you could have ever hoped.

But what I also know is one of the finest female singers I ever heard, who was in my high school class, I’ve never heard from again in my adult life.  And that Van George Serrault, the brilliant artist, never sold a painting in his life. Also, that Sarah Palin was the nominee for vice-president of the United States (I’m partisan, get over it) and ——  – —– (too soon to be that partisan) was actually president.  Plus, there was also that teacher you got stuck with in college (or even high school) who convinced you that even you knew more about a given subject than they did. (Do I need to even mention his or her name?)

As my Dad so wisely told me, “there will always be people more and less smart (and talented) than you.”  The key is what you do with what you have and how hard you are willing to work.  What is it they say in the World of Dated Though They Shouldn’t Be Homilies – talent is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration?

Meaning Bill Clinton didn’t just get up on a podium and espouse a bunch of partisan talking points.  He had lots of statistics, research and thought to back it up.  But he also didn’t list a boatload of genius statistics and expect you to understand it.  He took the time to analyze and synthesize all of the information in order to make his points.  In fact, he did such a good job that even factcheck.org and countless other organizations found his speech to have a total of ZERO stats that didn’t check out.  Talk about arithmetic.

Former Clinton spokesperson Terry McAuliffe confirmed that on a vacation with Mr. Clinton more than a month ago the former president spent innumerable hours each day personally working on this speech, despite being rich enough to have a few other geniuses do the digging and at least one to write it.  And the freedom to not even give it in the first place.  Not surprisingly, he chose none of the above.

I’m rich, bitch!

2. Being rich means not caring about the outcome.  Seriously?  Well, I’ve met several billionaires in my life – that’s with a “B” – and the opposite is true.  A billionaire’s credo: every deal is personal and winning is the only acceptable outcome even if it takes years of double and triple dealing to make it so.  For most active, wealthy people, rather than retirees or dilettantes (because who wants to talk about them anyway), there is always something being worked on – a project or an argument or a personal desire to bring into fruition.  That’s often what made the person wealthy in the first place.  The determination and desire to win, communicate and/or prove the other guy wrong or yourself right.  It’s always personal and there is ALWAYS something at stake.  All the money in the world won’t change deep down inside the fact that – YOU LOST – even when you try your best to convince the world that you don’t care.

Note:  Now let’s not mistake losing for financial failure.  For example, I’ve met many famous (and less than famous) artists, myself included, who do a project that might not make a lot of money or receive mixed to bad reviews, who truly believe and feel that in the end they’ve won.   In the final analysis, the victory can be getting it done in exactly the way you want.  This is universally true for a section of both the wealthy AND the poor.   For the top 1% the loss is usually much more public.  But for the other 99% it can be equally humiliating, or perhaps even invigorating, depending on one’s point of view.

As for Bill Clinton, he’s made many mega-millions through memoirs and high-priced speaking engagements in the years since his presidency AND has even given away billions to solve worldwide problems through his Clinton Global Initiative.

But it’s also taken him more than a decade of hard work and dedication and image rehabilitation to emerge as the most popular living American political figure of 2012, according to recent polls.   All the money in the world can’t buy that.  Ask Meg Whitman, former EBAY CEO who is wealthier than Bubba but whose money couldn’t even lift her to the governorship of California that she so desperately wanted.  Or Ross Perot, whose presidential run against Elvis  Clinton cost him more money than Bill Clinton is now probably worth in total.

Shilling for a living, baby.

3.  Selling someone else is easier than selling yourself. Most writers, directors, actors or any other creative people in film who want to work will at some point find themselves on projects that, to put it kindly, was not their idea, choice or in any way their personal favorite.  In other words, it’s not uncommon in the world to be a “gun for hire” – employed to do the best job using your particular brand of expertise.  Often times you get paid, sometimes you’re doing it for merely the credit, and still other times you’re doing it as “a favor.”  (Yes, people still do those).

I can recall a particular low point myself going to work on a grade “C” Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.  Some designer friends of mine like to recant stories of lugging bags of cut rate underwear from a shopping mall in the middle of nowhere on a 100+ degree film shoot or stacking miniscule pill bottles in a fake pharmacy that will probably never be seen onscreen for a drug store commercial.  The take away here is not how dedicated we all were but that even if you’re working on the crappiest thing in the world at some point it dawns on you that your name will be on it and that, “screw this, I’m gonna make my part of this piece of crap slightly less crappy” even if it kills me AND them (hopefully, the latter).

This is not quite the case with Bill Clinton in his DNC speech since his wife is the President’s Secretary of State and by all accounts relations between the two Presidents have grown much more cordial in recent months.  So that means there is some personal investment. Still, here are several reasons why this speech had to be extremely important to a man who is no longer president:

  1. His wife is Secretary of State AND might herself want to run for president in 2016.
  2. His entire life has been about building himself and the Democratic Party up – meaning he truly believes the first two are what is best for himself and the country.
  3. All presidents are concerned about their legacy and are somewhat egomaniacal (who else would want that job?) despite what they might say to the contrary.

You might think this is “just a job” and “easy money” when you start.  But if you’re any kind of real, high-achieving professional, by the time you finish you’ll swear you were extremely overworked and way, way, way underpaid.

Preach Whoopi!

4. It’s easy to preach to the already converted.  In the early 1970s, my mother told me she was going to vote for Richard Nixon because he promised to end the Vietnam War and she didn’t want me to be drafted.  Well, you can imagine how this went down with me.  I couldn’t vote but was a Chicago 7 revolutionary at heart.  How could my Mom, the person who loved me more than anyone in the world and would swear on a stack of bibles I was innocent even if she witnessed me gun down a busload of senior citizens, betray me like this???  It literally still makes no sense to me.  Because despite my ample persuasive abilities – and as my friends, family and students will tell you, they are formidable – no amount of nagging, cajoling, intellectualizing, tantrums, facts, figures or even tears would change her mind.

Good god, Mother!

Lessons learned at an early age: no matter how friendly your audience is to you, it will take a lot of work to convince them of something they might not want to be convinced of.  You have to be crafty, mature and in most cases, over the age of 17.  (Especially when dealing with my mother).

Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC certainly roused the attendees in the hall.  But he was shooting for a lot more than that.  He was shooting for undecided voters watching or reading about he said.  He was aiming towards dispassionate Democrats who didn’t particularly think working on this campaign was important.  He was addressing the rest of the world about what he, the President who presided over the greatest economic upturn in the last half century, thought would be the best strategy to solve the world’s problems.

Part of owning the room on any given day is taking nothing for granted and leaving a little bit but not everything to chance.  Compare the text of Bill Clinton’s written speech and the actual version of the talk, complete with 20 minutes of ad-libbing, as Sec. of State Hillary Clinton joked a few days ago that she planned to do.  Then consider Clint Eastwood’s almost totally ad-libbed address at the Republican Convention talking to an invisible Pres. Obama seated in an empty chair.   Several days ago Mr. Eastwood admitted to his local newspaper in Carmel that the idea for his speech came to him moments before he went onstage and that rather than massively prepare he had little idea what he’d do prior his entrance onstage.

Certainly both Mr. Eastwood AND MR. Clinton are hard-working icons who, on any given day, could take on each other.    And if on a film set and not on a political stage, Mr. E would, in particular, have the advantage.

But on that given moment, on those two arguably equal nights, who truly OWNED the room as they spoke?  Think about it.  Then, think about it some more.  Then, take some action of your own.