Bill Clinton knows how to play the room. So when the 42nd president of the United States took the podium at the Convention Center in Providence yesterday, he opened with: “I love Rhode Island.”
The former leader of the free world also has a fondness for Seth Magaziner, for whom he was here campaigning.
“He represents hope,” Clinton said, invoking both our state motto and his famous 1991 campaign slogan, when it was he coming from nowhere to best a political insider during an economic downturn.
Magaziner was just eight-years-old then, but he was already a Clinton supporter. He wrote a letter to the editor in the Bristol Phoenix extolling the virtues of the 32-year-old Arkansas governor. “I think that’s what put him over the top,” Magaziner joked. His father, Ira Magaziner, is a longtime friend and adviser of Clinton’s, who worked in the White House and now heads the Clinton Global Initiative.
“He’s a total policy wonk, and that’s why I love talking to him,” Seth said when I asked him about the behind-the-scenes Bill Clinton.
Clinton did have a good sense of Magaziner’s policy proposals, speaking at length about his so-called “blueprint” that would create an infrastructure bank, a clean energy fund and investing a greater portion of the pension fund in emerging local businesses.
“You’ve been through a really rough time since this financial crash,’’ Clinton said. ‘‘You deserve as many good jobs as quickly as you can get them, and Seth Magaziner will help you get them.’’ He said Rhode Island’s treasurer’s office has more constitutional authority than many other states, and that Magaziner’s so-called “blueprint” will help improve Rhode Island’s economy.
“He really did read the whole thing,” Magaziner told me afterwards. “Of course I was nervous when I knew he was reading it but I was excited when I heard that he liked it.”
Magaziner said he first mentioned the Clinton last summer that he was considering running for general treasurer. I asked him if Clinton offered any advice.
“He won his campaign based on promoting ideas and his advice to me was to do the same here,” Magaziner said. “Anyone who is running for treasurer right now has to be talking about those core economic issues. He understood, especially given everything Rhode Island is going through, that’s what people would want to hear.”