42nd President. Fantastic four-page transcript of the “Remarks By The President At The Alfalfa Club Dinner” held on January 25, 1997 at the Capital Hilton Hotel, boldly signed and inscribed at top right “To Joel Shapiro with thanks Bill Clinton”. Among those in attendance at the event were former President George H.W. Bush, nearly all the Cabinet members, a multitude of Senators, billionaire Warren Buffett, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Disney head Michael Eisner and Jack Valenti, Motion Picture Association of America chief.
This speech, liberally sprinkled with insider jokes about Washington, poked fun at many of Clinton’s political adversaries during the late 1990s including Trent Lott, Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander, Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich, and even George W. Bush, to whom Clinton presciently referred as “the second President Bush.”
Some of the more memorable quotes from the speech include:
“You know, last week, Trent Lott was introduced on Meet The Press as ‘the most prominent Republican in Washington.’ I was relieved to hear that. You see, after I signed the welfare reform bill, some Democrats called me the most prominent Republican in Washington.”
“I am trying to be more bipartisan. One of the real honors I’ve had as President was giving the Medal of Freedom to Senator Dole. That’s a serious comment…I was so happy after that ceremony that I asked Bob to spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom — on the house.”
“A lot has been made of the fact that I’m the first Democrat to be elected to two terms since FDR. Just keep on making a lot of it. I was last here during my first term, which of course has been followed by this, my second.”
“Bill Clinton added 1.5 million acres of land to our national parks; by his own admission, George Washington was personally responsible for the deforestation of cherry trees.”
“Bill Clinton reduced crime on our streets; Thomas Jefferson’s Vice President shot a guy.”
“Bill Clinton signed more nuclear disarmament agreements – now listen to this – than James Madison, Andrew Jackson and James Polk combined.”
“And Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have made more of an effort than FDR to seek the counsel of Eleanor Roosevelt.”
“I see an America where a President of one party and a Speaker of the House of another party might sit down together in true fellowship and split an extra large pizza with sausage and peppers.”
Clinton had celebrated his second Inaugural just 5 days earlier – and this speech offered him a chance to poke some fun at his fellow Washington insiders. The inscribee, Joel Shapiro, was a speechwriter who helped write this very speech.
The Alfalfa Club is a Washington, D.C. social organization that exists only to hold an annual banquet on the last Saturday of January. The club’s membership, which numbers about 200, is composed primarily of American politicians and influential members of the United States business community, and has included several presidents of the United States. The group’s name is a reference to the plant’s supposed willingness to do anything for a drink.
When founded in 1913, the Club’s function was to celebrate the birthday of Confederate Civil War General Robert E. Lee. It began admitting blacks in 1974. Bill Clinton boycotted the event, turning down the 1994 invitation because women were not admitted. He agreed to speak to the organization only after women were allowed to join.