Black and Red; Ohio vs. Michigan; Quote of the Week
Good morning, it’s Friday, Nov. 29, 2019, the day of the week in which I use this newsletter to pass along a quote intended to be inspiring or illuminating. Today’s is from 24 years ago in Ireland -- although the words really come from the Sermon on the Mount some 2,000 years earlier, long before an American president employed them in the cause of peace.
I’ll explain in a moment.
First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
* * *
Black Friday, Red China…and a Robust America. Steve Cortes contrasts the two countries’ divergent economic trajectories as the U.S. holiday shopping season kicks into high gear.
The Importance of Small Business Saturday. In RealClearPolicy, Elaine Parker cites benefits to both the local community and the national economy.
Michigan-Ohio State Rivalry Started on the Battlefield. In RealClearHistory, Howard Tanzman revisits the violent boundary dispute of 1836.
* * *
Bill Clinton decided to involve himself in what would become known as the “Irish peace process” for reasons that were logical if not particularly noble: He was vying for support among prominent Democrats in New York prior to that state’s 1992 presidential primary.
On his way to the nomination that spring, Clinton hit an unexpected speed bump, narrowly losing the Connecticut primary to former California Gov. Jerry Brown. Examining the exit polls, Clinton and his advisers realized they’d been bested by Brown among the state’s white Catholics. This surprised Clinton’s campaign team, but it shouldn’t have.
A previous (and future) California governor, Brown was a former Jesuit seminarian who traced his lineage to an influential clan from County Tipperary. Moreover, Brown had taken his Catholic faith and Irish heritage seriously enough to study “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland. He had had concluded that peace could not come to that island unless the United States played a role. Not only a role, but a leading role -- and a neutral one, which almost certainly necessitated bringing Sinn Fein and its controversial leader, Gerry Adams, in from the cold.
Brown vowed that if elected president, he’d appoint a special envoy to Northern Ireland, investigate British human rights abuses, and issue a visa for Adams to visit America, a sticking point with the British. After his Connecticut loss, Clinton quickly followed Brown’s lead. Clinton then accepted an invitation he’d previously declined -- to a New York City dinner hosted by New York Democrats.
In that forum, the Clinton political magic was on full display. He then won the New York primary, the Democratic presidential nomination, and the presidency. Once in the Oval Office, he pursued peace in Northern Ireland with passion and vigor. Clinton also found, to his initial surprise, that the British government had come to the same conclusions as he and Jerry Brown did about what it would take.
On this date in 1995, Clinton found a receptive audience while addressing the British Parliament, and the following day, he landed in Belfast for a series of speeches and meetings.
The next afternoon, Nov. 30, 1995, Clinton took a helicopter to the besieged town of Derry, the hometown of John Hume, Northern Ireland’s most prominent Catholic politician. Hume introduced Clinton, and as the crowd chanted his name, Clinton posed a question to them: “Are you going to be someone who defines yourself in terms of what you are against or what you are for?” Clinton added, “The time has come for the peacemakers to triumph in Northern Ireland, and the United States will support them as they do.”
Accompanied by first lady Hillary Clinton, the president returned to Belfast for an ecumenical Christmas-tree lighting ceremony attended 50,000 people. Mrs. Clinton spoke first, mentioning the letters she’d received from war-weary schoolchildren. Her husband then quoted a 14-year-old girl from County Armagh. “Both sides have been hurt,” she wrote in her letter. “Both sides must forgive.”
You’d think that of all the human activities in the Western world, a Christmas-tree lighting would be non-sectarian. But this was not necessarily the case for the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland, in either Derry or Belfast.
During his trip back to Belfast on Marine One, Clinton had felt the need to make this point, but in a positive way. So he added a new ending to the speech drafted by his staff. Clinton closed by saying that for Jesus, whose birth they were celebrating, “no words were more important than these: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth.”
Actually, while writing from memory aboard a helicopter in the days before Google -- and apparently traveling without his Bible -- Bill Clinton slightly garbled the passage. It’s the meek who shall inherit the earth. Peacemakers, Jesus said, “shall be called children of God.”
And that’s your quote of the week.
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics