Posted: March 10, 2014
A MAN FOR ALL CONTINENTS
By Celia Cohen
Bill Clinton is making a habit of showing up in Delaware whenever Joe Biden's old Senate seat is going to be on the ballot.
Clinton was here in 2009 for the Democrats' Jefferson-Jackson dinner to talk up what people knew, just knew, would be happening in the 2010 Senate race.
Mike Castle and Beau Biden were going to collide in the mother of all campaigns. So it goes.
As the Bidens are fond of saying, life is what happens when you are making other plans.
So here was Clinton, back in Delaware, but it was for Chris Coons, the Democrat who stepped up to vault himself in 2010 from Nowhere Man as the New Castle County executive to senator, now ready to run for another term in 2014, so far with no opponent.
Clinton was not here overtly campaigning, just lending Coons a little stature by giving the keynote address at Opportunity: Africa, a conference Coons hosted on Monday at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington.
Africa is a place they both care about. Coons is the chair of the Foreign Relations subcommittee on African affairs, and Clinton, well, he is a man for all continents.
"Thanks for bringing me back to Delaware, Senator. I like it here. The first time I came here, when I was running for president, I felt right at home. It's just like Arkansas. You've got more chickens than people," Clinton quipped.
"It's small enough where people know each other, where they can have differences in an argument and still actually come to a conclusion, which is quite important."
Clinton was welcomed with cheers and an ovation from the crowd of about 1,200 people, who included Jack Markell, the Democratic governor, as well as John Carney, the Democratic congressman, a smattering of legislators and Wilmington council members, and also Lisa Goodman and Jim Hussey, the Democratic Party's vice chairs.
"It's a real recognition of the job the senator has done in Africa," Goodman said.
Clinton happily wonked out. He spoke for about 45 minutes, his remarks taking him to Ethiopia, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa and so on, all over the continent, with side trips to Asia, Latin America, Europe and Canada.
He talked about the need to grow more food in Africa but without throwing small farmers off the land. He discussed a project to put health clinics within a three-hour walk of every Ethiopian. Nothing seemed too minute or mundane for him not to pay attention to it.
When Clinton meandered into politics, however, he was really in his element.
He lit up as he told the story of a South African ballot, where the candidates were identified not just by name, but also with a picture and their parties' colors, to accommodate the voters who could not read, and there was one candidate who tried to make himself look like Nelson Mandela and used colors like Mandela's. The voters were not fooled.
Clinton comes across like he is the precinct captain of the world, and he wants the vote of all 7 billion people in it.