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Marshall Frady, author of Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson

Lynn Powell, Southern Baptist poet, author of Old and New Testaments

Bill Emerson, Journalism professor, University of South Carolina; former editor, The Saturday Evening Post

Doug Marlette, Political cartoonist, Newsday

Debra Mathis, Southern writer, syndicated columnist and former Arkansas television reporter

Bobby Ann Mason, Southern writer, author of In Country Interviewed May 11-12, 1996


FL: In the South, can you discuss the reason that they take religion so seriously.

POWELL:

Well, the church is the central institution in the South. In the South, the church hasn't been abandoned to the pious as I think it has been in other places. And everybody still goes to church. And when I was growing up in the fifties in the South, you'd go to church at least three times a week. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night for prayer meeting. During a revival you'd have to go every night. You'd have to pack a pew. You'd be responsible for packing a pew. You'd go to vacation bible school in the summer, bible camp. And your social life and your cultural life all were rooted in the church. And the theology of salvation and damnation also hovered over your whole life. And the sort of world broke down into those who were saved and those who weren't saved and that was the central drama and the central narrative of your life.

I think when you grow up in the South in that kind of religion, even if later you don't take your religion seriously, it still takes you seriously. You can't ever quite leave that religion. You still have the flavor of it because you've been steeped in it so long and you've been shaped by it.

MATHIS:

And you know you have to at least feign religiosity. I mean it's part of who you're supposed to be as a Southerner. So you at least have to go through some motions or make some claims on religion if you're a true Southerner, it's expected of you to have a religion. And that religion is often Baptist, often Fundamentalist. You get all the fever pitches in the song, in the sermon, in the giving and all, and yet there are a lot of places to hide in the South. A lot of space where you can go and do your sin. And then report on Sunday morning and pretend to be sanctimonious.

FRADY:

Now, how would this connect to Mr. Clinton?

MATHIS:

Well, what do you think? We keep hearing about him, and he is a man with weaknesses that have both been demonstrated, and those that he has confessed to, sometimes obliquely but he has confessed to them. And as well as those that he is rumored to have committed that we may not know to be true. But at any rate he believes in redemption. He has to believe in redemption and he expects the rest of us to act like good Southern Baptists and forgive him.

EMERSON:

Well in the South you grow up marinated in religion. It's everywhere. You can't escape it and more than you could escape the weather. So you learned to live with it. It's encouraging and it's discouraging. It's terrifying and it's comforting. But you know it has an awesome grip on your soul, even if you move to a middle size city.

FRADY:

But in that Southern religious sensibility which is an older vision of the race. It is not that optimistic and does not necessarily assume that the species is improveable and that man's lot is this unchangeable condition of embattlement, equal parts meanness, orneriness, compassion, it's old vision. And those kinetics, emotional kinetics in Southern religiousness, guilt, transgression, contrition,

EMERSON:

Forgiveness.

FRADY:

And redemption, c ontinue no matter how distantly you feel that you have pulled away. That old steamy, dramaturgy continues to be a play in you, like the distant and robust gallumphing of a calliope. It's always there.

EMERSON:

So modestly put.

FL: Lynn can you talk a little bit about the climate of religion in the South?

POWELL:

Well, in the South it's hot, and it's lush and the landscape is sensually inviting and it's soaked in color and in blossom. It just blooms and blooms forever. The landscape invites you to reveal yourself and literally to take your clothes off. And you're not bundled up against temptation the way you are in the North so much of the year.

In the South...you're invited to be out in the grass and have most of your skin uncovered. So it's harder to resist temptation in the South. It's a seductive landscape. But it's not a benign seduction. It's not a benign lushness. An I think that part of the reason Southerners tend toward Fundamentalism is that serpent in the garden. It's not a metaphor for evil, it's a real copperhead in the cornfield, it's a rattlesnake in the woodpile.

EMERSON:

Cottonmouth down at the edge of the swamp.

POWELL:

That's right. And temptation ...

EMERSON:

Move quickly, dearly beloved.

POWELL:

And temptations are like that, they're really coiled up and waiting for you. They'll get you. And I think it makes sense that in that landscape you have a religion that depends on the forgiveness of sin and is about grace and redemption because you're gonna sin, you're gonna be seduced, you're going to yield to temptation or else it's going to lie in wait and strike.

FRADY:

So the political projection of that would be the Comeback Kid. Moving back into political grace after having foundered.

MASON:

Well, I think that notion of sin and then forgiveness gets internalized in people who grew up in that religion. And it's a motion that is familiar and you depend on in a sense.

FRADY:

But you can always come back into grace. It's expected.

MARLETTE:

For Southerners there's a tolerance for ambiguity, there's a sense of acceptance for what Faulkner called the "conflicts of the human heart." There's a feel for both the light and the dark. And it's all one thing and not only that, it's so much a part of our, I think of what you're talking about as what Flannery O'Connor called the "Christ haunted South." It's a constant. It's just second nature. It's something we grow up with and we see. It's in the landscape. The roads, the churches, it's like living in Israel. Everything sounds like you're in the middle of the holy land.

FRADY:

There's another past populating this landscape. From those old landscapes of the scriptures. Jericho, Moab, and you see locales, and it's like some of us live in this implosion of time, many ages... The memories of many ages.

EMERSON:

You sort of forget the Mediterranean-like strain in the Southern character. Southerners live in this fecund wilderness of flowers and birds. A cornucopia turned, everything growing like crazy. That damned kudzu chase you down the road and overtake you and swallow you whole.

FRADY:

Been known to consume a cow if left overnight in a field. And the next morning nothing but kudzu. But A.J. Liebling once observed that there is one continuos cultural, liberal, continuing from the Mediterranean, skipping across the blank expanse of the Atlantic, but then picked up and continuing, particularly along the Southern coast. One continuos continuum from the Mediterranean, which then filters on back into the inland South.

EMERSON:

Well you've noticed how intimate the scenery in the Mediterranean is. There's not this vast bleak expanse that makes a cough respected as conversation.

FRADY:

It's a landscape with a rhetoric of adjectives. It is not lacking adjectives, this landscape isn't.

EMERSON:

It is better to link three adjectives together rather than have one lonely, miserable adjective there.

FRADY:

Then it doesn't encompass it. One adjective doesn't necessarily draw the circle around the phenomenon that you're straining to apprehend.

MATHIS:

This conversation is a perfect example of the South. It epitomizes the South. It is very self indulgent. It is very indulgent. It loves excess. I mean really.

MARLETTE:

It loves understanding. And it loves telling it.

MATHIS:

But it loves excess. Look, the language that we're using here right now, what we're talking about now, there is an abundance of adjectives, there's an abundance of metaphors, there's an abundance of everything because there's so much we don't have in the South, those things we do have we use them to pieces.

EMERSON:

We've been up and down a time or two in the South. We've had this wild ride the last 200 years. That'll get your attention won't it?

MARLETTE:

I think the South's experience is much more like the rest of the world than the United States experience as a whole. I think that'S because we were invaded and defeated and humiliated, it makes us be much more akin with Third World countries, or countries in Europe or the Middle East who have been invaded.

EMERSON:

Or Ireland.

FRADY:

The South is like America's Ireland, or Corsica, or Sicily.

MARLETTE:

But it all goes back to what, to being defeated, having lost and we experienced this more of a universal ...

EMERSON:

A live poem is something you never let go of. I mean it's affected the Irish profoundly. It's affected us. Our folk memories include the whole business too.

FRADY:

But are all of these bagpipes of feeling in Mr. Clinton?

EMERSON:

I think that they're very definitely in Mr. Clinton. And that's the thing that makes a lot of people, not me, uneasy about him. He's a voluble passionate gaudy sort of man. He's sort of a thinking Bubba. How can you beat that?

FRADY:

Some have suggested that he represents kind of Jimmy Carter, earnest, diligent; Billy Carter, who was sort of the prodigal roustabout and rogue. That Clinton represents Jimmy Carter and Billy Carter kind of morphed into the same being--containing all of those qualities at once. These great barging appetites, lip smacking appetites and that studious earnestness and diligence.

EMERSON:

Patriotic, honest, decent and clean.

MARLETTE:

I think it goes back to the South's having been a Third World country or being separate from the United States, or a separate landscape. And that Clinton is the transitional figure. I think of him as the faux-Bubba. The weekend Bubba, the fake, the counterfeit cracker. Not that, I mean that's his roots. But as he moves and as he tries to pass in the dominant culture, that's what's happening in this generation.

FRADY:

Technotronic, corporate civilization, and shopping center.

MARLETTE:

And he's rooted in the past, as all Southerners are, but he's moving into the next century.

EMERSON:

But politics is a game to him. It's a game in the South. It's an outrageous game, and people hang from the top of trees listening to you when you're on the stump. He's a great stump speaker. He's a great politician. There's a lot of humor in person, not like the grim politics in other parts of the country.

He's trying to talk politics and talk about women which is a stunning revelation isn't it?

POWELL:

Circling back to the original question about the religion, and how that influences Clinton, I think Clinton exudes that Southern Baptist conviction that once you're saved, you're always saved. And that once you've had that moment of conversion, that in your heart you believe that Jesus took your sins on him and died for your sins, that there's no thing that you can do that will come between you and God's grace. That there is no sin too great that will stand in your way going to the Promised Land. That all your sins are forgiven, even the ones you've yet to commit. I think for the believer, in the words of the old Baptist hymn, that's a blessed assurance. But I think to the skeptic it's this maddening self-assurance and this hubris.

FRADY:

Well, that's the part of that tradition that some would more immediately connect to Clinton. But that whole moral dramaturgy, it's a little difficult to parse that into Clinton.

EMERSON:

You know what, I've been urging you to be more concrete in what you're saying about Clinton. And I want to remind you that he sang second tenor in the church choir when he was Governor.

FRADY:

Who did?

EMERSON:

Clinton did. Why -- I hope I'm telling the world. He's as startling to me ... So he's been connected with a church very directly.

MARLETTE:

I went to a service at First Baptist Church in Washington, DC the night before the Inauguration and the Clintons and the Gores were there. And he talked about singing in the choir. And that was apparently a regular thing, it wasn't just like an occasional appearance. This was very much a part of his life.

FRADY:

Does anybody know whether he's actually is he a born again Christian?

MATHIS:

No. Not in the term. Now, you have to understand, I'm a Baptist preacher's daughter. I've always had a problem with this whole born again thing because of course the Baptists believe, as do most of the Protestant religions, that you must be born again anyway. But born again has taken on this different meaning in modern incarnations. And in that way I don't think that Clinton is the evangelist, I found it, born again, type as though there's a moment of epiphany where he just finds this. His conversion was early in his life and so in the purest sense of the word he is, of course, born again, but in the modern sense of the word, not. He's not part of the evangelism, fundamentalism, Jerry Falwell group.

POWELL:

He's a Southern Baptist and when you're a Southern Baptist that conversion experience can happen when you're seven and it can happen on your deathbed.

MARLETTE:

It's what the Baptists call the age of accountability.

MATHIS:

When you read the Bible of course it says that you must be born ... The famous passage with Nikodemus where he's saying, "Am I to enter into my mother's womb again. Lord, am I? Is this what you mean, rabbi?" And he's explaining, no, about being born again of the spirit. So that is part of the Christian faith, no matter what. And so I'm saying that Bill Clinton is not part of this Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson born again community.

MARLETTE:

There's a wide array of Baptists, as we all know.

FRADY:

It sounds like the church is as balkanized as Protestantism is.

MATHIS:

They tried to kick him out a couple of years ago because of his position on gays in the military and on abortion.

MARLETTE:

Which is a ridiculous position, because as a Southern Baptist one of the essences of the Baptist faith is soul freedom or individual consciousness, the most existential of the Protestant reformation that we were the most individual. I mean Southern Baptists gave us the first amendment. Of all the people, we fled from the idea of religious persecution and the idea that there were people who could mediate, like priests in the Catholic church. We believed in the authority of individual conscious. And that is very much a part of Clinton, that is very much central ...

FRADY:

But how that translates into Clinton would be moral earnestness. He's earnest.

FL: You've told me that you think that Clinton is the perfect Baptist minister because of his sense of performance and the use of language.

POWELL:

I want to. Gotta get oriented here. The purpose of a Southern Baptist sermon is to save souls. It's not to get you to live the good life, it's not to get you to be introspective and reflect. It's to save souls. When the minister gets up there to give his sermon it's the language that's going to make the difference in whether or not people in the congregation are going to heaven or hell. Whether or not the language can persuade them to surrender themselves to Jesus. And I think a Baptist sermon is often about surrendering and yielding. And it depends on emotion, not on logic and on reason. It's emotion that will break through those reserves and get the reluctant heart to yield.

It seems to me that Clinton is like a Southern Baptist minister. That's sort of the model for his speeches, it seems to me that the speeches are about having your soul put right, having your heart be in the right place. And they use the language of emotion and yielding and giving over.

FRADY:

Why does there attach to him that suspicion that behind that earnest parson-like demeanor there lurks a scoundrel, a scamp.

MATHIS:

Can I say it's because the South, which is the cradle of evangelism, had these tent revivals, these healers that came through and laid on hands and people gave money and believed in it, and all of a sudden they realized the other day that woman that walked out of the wheelchair had been walking around anyway. And so there's a skepticism about someone who comes on with so much love and goodness and divine abilities and all of those things, wait a minute here. Is this the preacher who is the man of God? Or is this the con man of God? There are these double images of this evangelist, this traveling, itinerant preacher. The snake oil salesman.

EMERSON:

That rascal is in everybody though. Behind this love of God and behind the piety, the rascal or the devil, whatever you want to call it, is in all of us.

MARLETTE:

Vividness is part of not only the Southern Baptist heritage, of that kind of hysterical end of the spectrum of emotionalism that we embody, but also the South has been vivid in its sins. And therefore we became the nation's whipping boy, the bad boy, because we were more clearly what the entire nation has the capacity for. But we were more poor, our racism, we had white and colored signs. It was all clear. And so the nation pointed fingers at the South.

FRADY:

Well, the South has served almost since this nation's inception, as the crucible through which the rest of the country works out it's struggles of conscience on what remains, I think, the fundamental malaise of America, race. The racial schism.

MARLETTE:

Exactly. Which is why, not only race, America came into itself in the South. America became America on the red clay battlefields of this region. I mean the war was fought here mainly, and the civil rights movement. So all its self realizations were fought out, and that may account for some of our Southern concreteness.

FRADY:

But the South has got a tragic vision of human experience, because it's had a tragic experience, because it's outside the general optimistic, chipper vision of life of the rest of the country.

MARLETTE:

It gives you more of a feel for the tragic dimension of life.

FRADY:

And it's an older vision. That has always seemed to me then what has been so affecting to the Southerner about Jesus. And I'm not so sure that Jesus has not mattered more to the Southerner for his suffering and crucifixion, than this sort of ebullient anti-climax of the resurrection.

MARLETTE:

It's a theology of the cross, not of the resurrection.

FRADY:

It's tragic though, tragic. And what affects the Southerner about Jesus is that almost from his beginning he was holiness, crucified on a cross of flesh. About the Southern Jesus, there has always been much more Prometheus than St. Paul.

MATHIS:

I think the resurrection theme is the most important theme in Southern religion. Yes, there's the great romance of the suffering and the sacrifice and the cross and the betrayals and all that. But resurrection is the linchpin of this whole thing and it represents what Bill Clinton expects as well, resurrection, resurrection, resurrection. I sin, I am redeemed.

MARLETTE:

But the Southern view is resurrection as a validation for the way of the cross, not denial as a way of the cross.

MATHIS:

But Lynn's point is the point about Bill Clinton. And that is that once saved, always saved. And that's the thing he knows and that's the thing he counts on. And I think that he is sometimes taken aback by the lack of forgiveness or the unavailability of forgiveness from his constituents, when he knows that his God is forgiving him. So he thinks that that in itself, the fact that he is a child of God and being forgiven by God, should help redeem him in the eyes of the people.

FRADY:

But why would Clinton find such consolation and comfort and energizing in that proposition?

MATHIS:

Why? Because he knows himself. Just as you and I know ourselves. I'm very grateful for my own religious beliefs. I know what I'm up to. And I need to know that there is ultimate forgiveness and redemption no matter what other people may think of me. I think that's what he's counting on. I think he honestly believes that.

FRADY:

You're not suggesting that there's been something of the picaresque in Clinton's past are you?

MATHIS:

Of course there is.

FRADY:

But that's all it is. And that's an acknowledgment of our common multi-dimensional nature. And that's why I think it's a sense of life that is much fuller. We are tumultuously mixed critters. And as a Tennessee gospel existentialist, peripatetic, evangelist named Will Campbell will sometimes put it, "We're all varmints, but God loves us anyway."

FL: And how does Clinton regard this? He is quite vivid.

EMERSON:

We keep saying Clinton hadn't been saved again, born again, now we don't have any idea whether he's been born again. Jesus himself said, "Don't flaunt it on the thoroughfare, don't flaunt it on the streetcorner, don't talk about how pious you are. It might be very wise for him to leave that as his personal secret as to whether he's been born again or not.

MATHIS:

Well what I'm saying is we know as much about his religious relationship as we do about anyone's. And that is to take them at their word. That's about all we can do. The thing about the Baptist religion that Bill Clinton knows and that those of us who are Baptists understand, is that being saved does not mean that you will no longer sin or that you are no longer subject to danger or trouble. It means that you are promised an after life where you have no more of these troubles, no more of these dangers, no more of these temptations. Bill Clinton is a man of the flesh. I think he is a man who loves the thrill of the chase. I think he loves chasing legislation and then once it gets passed and people sign on to it, he kind of leaves it alone and gets bored with it and fails to close the loop. He may have loved to chase women. He loves to chase the food. He loves to chase an idea. He's a man who loves the thrill of the chase. He recognizes, I believe, that this is one of his weaknesses and he's trying to reign it in and he's partly relying upon his own maturity, partly relying upon our forgiveness and partly relying on his faith in God to bring him through all this.

FRADY:

It's good he has this theology. Immemorially. It's simply the natural exuberance of this countryside and this weather in the South. He's a man of barging appetites. And maybe one of his redeeming characters from being strictly the schematic, techtronic, like Nixon, freeze dried, instead of being a freeze dried kind of leader, he has these kind of brawling, kind of reckless appetites.

MARLETTE:

And he's organic and he is growing and that's why I think the kudzu vine that covers everything and grows a foot at night, and sprawls and eats everything, and covers barns and tractors and slow moving children, I think that that is in essence, about Bill Clinton. That vine grows because it absorbs all the nutrients and proteins in the environment and it keeps growing. And I think Bill Clinton has this quality, this essence in him.

FRADY:

Clinton may prefer the metaphor of, which has that kind of rampant vitality about it, but honeysuckle instead. Which also in addition to having this all devouring appetite as kudzu, is also attended with a swooning sweetness, honeysuckle. But is as rampant.

EMERSON:

It pulls bricks out of the wall and everything else. But does it occur to you how Southern this is, everything we've said, all this hype, all the rest of it. All this fructifying prose and this honey dripping rhetoric. This is all very Southern and it's a part of Southernness that the rest of the nation is profoundly suspicious of and hostile to.

FRADY:

But it ain't just ornateness. It's not just baroque for the sake of baroque, rococo for the sake of rococo. It's trying to understand as Faulkner once said of Thomas Wolfe, "His splendid misery and compassion and exorbitant compulsion was to put all experience on a postage stamp. On the head of a pin." And that's the Southern compulsion.

EMERSON:

That sounds like a Japanese talent to me.

FRADY:

Well, it's a kind of Dixie haiku.

FL: I'd like you to talk a little bit about emotionalism in the South and how it's sanctioned in the church and how you see that in Clinton.

POWELL:

I think in the South the church is an environment that does sanction emotion in men. It sanctions emotion in everyone, including the men. And it's, the minister is the model for that. He's up there giving passionate, banging the pulpit, sweating, I've seen men cry in church. And there's this push to making yourself vulnerable. I mean that's what a sermon is about, making yourself vulnerable so that you can yield to Jesus, surrender to Jesus. And when you make yourself vulnerable, you yield to emotion and it's in the language of the sermon, it's in the structure of the service and if one doesn't yield, if one doesn't reveal themselves and become emotional, there's something wrong with them. They're resistant to God, they're holding back.

FRADY:

Do you sense that kind of openness and vulnerability in Clinton?

EMERSON:

I don't know. And remember in 1603, got the King James version of the bible which was the local version in the vulgate, the common speech of the day. Then all these people came swarming over here, bringing their cadences and their rhythms, and their metaphors, and asimile. So we got religion, not to speak of people fleeing from religious persecutions, so all of us are marked with this in strange and curious and bizarre ways. And Clinton too. And this takes some understanding on the part of the rest of the nation. And they may never get it.

MASON:

A man like Clinton who goes into a room, and goes from person to person and feels empathy with each and every one of them, I think that's very Southern and it's a skill, projecting oneself on to others. And thinkingfirst of all-- what they're thinking of you. And if you're very aware of what they're thinking of you then you have to be very aware of what you think of them so the whole thing will work smoothly. And it's being agreeable. And I think it's more likely that there's genuine empathy in a culture where you're constantly conscious of what others will think of you. And I think that Southerners may be a little bit more oriented toward the group. And to conforming to the group than perhaps other parts of the country.

FRADY:

The South is tribal culture. It's tribal.

MASON:

Yeah. It reminds me very much of Japan, in a way, because of this emphasis on politeness and what the group will think, and not wanting to stick out and take the initiative. So I think that these behaviors may be suspect in some quarters, but among Southerners I think we understand that we're trying to see the other person's point of view so that you don't upset things too much because it could get disagreeable very quickly and you don't treat people that way.

FL: Can you continue with Clinton and how his language is interpreted.

MASON:

I think Clinton's often misinterpreted and may be understood very well by Southerners as a way of talking. In the South you don't say, "I think so and so." You say, "Well, I believe" or "I guess", or "I reckon", or "I expect', or "I calculate", or "I figure." Anything but "I think." Or if you say "I believe," you don't necessarily mean a basic belief of yours, you may just mean "I think" or "My opinion of the moment." "I suspect" or "I expect". And a person can say "I don't care" and mean yes. You could ask, "Do you want to go to the movies?" And the answer might be, "I don't care." Well, it's a loaded question. It means, "Well, I won't asset myself too much. I'll just see if you want to go to the movies." And the person replying let's the other person take the initiative. So it's a kind of game that's played so that somebody's not bossing another person around. It's polite.

MARLETTE:

It's a consciousness of the other people around you and an empathy which what Walker Percy called "that minuet of overture and response." It is a constant ebb and flow of human relations that we feel comfortable with, that Clinton has. This is not big deal for us, but I think the rest of the nation can sometimes be suspicious.

FRADY:

Does it lend the appearance to Clinton, this filigreed civility, of vacillating?

MASON:

I think it does although, it's a virtue in the South to be agreeable and to have good manners and to see the point of view of everyone present. So it's understood that it's a virtue. But there's the other side of it too.

EMERSON:

Don't you think there's a natural diplomacy there that's very Southern in it's finesse? It makes it possible for the other person, you explained so nicely the way each person allows the other person to contribute to the decision. Whatever it's going to be. There's a natural diplomacy in that. He may be inconstant in ways, but that doesn't seem to me to be inconstancy. Does it to you?

MASON:

No, I think it's a natural behavior. And I think it's rooted in the cavalier tradition where --if you said the wrong thing or got the wrong impression--on a split second you could be in a duel.

EMERSON:

We're a frontier society too. Which nobody has mentioned.

MATHIS:

The bottom line is to not offend.

EMERSON:

On the frontier, that was very important.

MATHIS:

Not to offend. And I think part of that goes to this Southern need to be liked and to be accepted that in large part comes from the devastation after the Civil War.

Just not good enough, not smart enough, not whatever enough as the rest of the country and having to try and prove always that, "You do like me don't you? You will treat me like a fellow American won't you? You will let me in? You do think I'm as smart as you are?" And so sometimes empathy, or feigned empathy, is the mode, is the vehicle to get to that place of being liked.

EMERSON:

That took on a particular urgency with Clinton though, didn't it?

MATHIS:

One of the first things everybody seemed to notice about him is that how the man wants to be liked, how he wants to be liked.

EMERSON:

Well, given his beginnings...

MATHIS:

Given his beginnings, of course, so much was tied metaphysically to his growing up with an alcoholic step father and all of that and wanting to be the peacemaker. I'm sure, I'm sure that had to be part of it. But a lot of it is just inherent Southernism where you don't want to offend, you do want to be liked, which means that you have to empathize or sympathize with the other person.

MASON:

And you have to be nice. You have to be nice. Southerners judge you on how nice you are, especially if you achieve any kind of success. You have to be nice.

You can't be stuck up. It's a sin. It's something you said about religion. If you bragged about being saved then you would be stuck up. I suppose that's the origin of some of this.

And that's a sin. So you can't act above your raising. You have to remember the folks back home if you go away. Clinton is very conscious of this.

MARLETTE:

The phrase "good old boy" comes out of that. He is a good old boy.

EMERSON:

Is Clinton our first good old boy president? Clinton is a good old boy, sort of in a Bubba way. He's our first good old boy president. That's a historic moment for the South.

MARLETTE:

Yes.

MASON:

Wasn't Andrew Jackson a President?

EMERSON:

Yes, but even Andrew Jackson couldn't have been considered a good old boy.

EMERSON:

He was a pretty ornery guy.

MARLETTE:

I think we should distinguish here, because good old boy has become a sinister term for people, but it originated as coming out of what kind of Bobby Ann was talking about, as a compliment that "he may be this or that, but so and so's a good old boy."

EMERSON:

Do you realize what you're describing about Clinton is what makes him so successful in international policy and conversation in Europe and all over the world. This really works. Everybody is astonished with how well Bill Clinton does with foreign policy.

MATHIS:

Kohl likes Bill Clinton. Boris Yeltsin likes Bill Clinton. And I'm telling you that that is the universal language, is being liked. And if you like a person you can make all kinds of headway, whether you're talking about nuclear disarmament, or you're talking about what you're going to have for dinner.

EMERSON:

But it's also his Southernness. He's more like abroad that he tends to be in the rest of this country.

MATHIS:

Because of his Southernness he's a more likable person. The press likes him. No matter how the press may attack him, the press likes him because his Southern ways make him a likable person, no matter what you think of his politics.

EMERSON:

Well he's an agreeable person to be with. It's easy and relaxing.

MARLETTE:

You know lately I find myself speculating... Southerners like Clinton may be the most cosmopolitan people on the face of the planet. Because of this push towards embracing, accepting and trying to understand the world. Trying to be a part of it. And I think Bill Clinton is that.

EMERSON:

We are the true continentals in a sense. The Irish are such continentals. I mean people naturally like them. And they naturally like Southerners.

MATHIS:

Now remember he has Irish blood too. So boy.


continued

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