By Ken Stone
Hearing that Bill Clinton was in town, Behrokh Flores booked it to Balboa Park, carrying the former president’s heavy 1,000-page biography, “My Life.”
Flores was first in line outside the Balboa Park Club at 3:45 a.m. — two hours before anyone else.
A devoted “Ready for Hillary” disciple? A dedicated Democrat set to campaign for the front-runner?Actually, Flores was there “for the history. He was our former president.”
The 52-year-old wife of Miramar Marine Master Sgt. Jose Flores wanted to “put politics aside,” savor the moment — and perhaps get an autograph on the book lent by her son, a student at UC San Diego. (She did. An aide took the tome to Clinton and returned it, signed.)
The 42nd president didn’t disappoint about 350 others either, speaking for 42 minutes on his wife’s “best ideas” for America and then hanging around to shake hands with fans for 14 minutes before waving goodbye and disappearing behind a black curtain in the 101-year-old building.
Pacing with a microphone on a confined stage, Clinton covered a lot of ground of his wife’s policy proposals — debt-free college for students in public and private schools alike, a 15 percent tax credit for companies giving employees a share of profits, and a renewed push for Ted Kennedy-style immigration reform.
Clinton spoke amid Secret Service and San Diego police protection — but with light security (no bag checks or metal detectors).
Judy Ki of Poway, active in Asian-American groups, helped introduce Clinton three days after she was elected a potential delegate to the Democratic National Convention.
“We are so close to nominating the first woman president,” Ki said to cheers, with California playing a “major role in putting her over the top.”
Ki concluded: “Send her to the convention with a YUUUGE mandate.” Then said “sorry” about using a Trumpism. “I can’t wait till the day when you say ‘President Clinton’ and I’ll say: ‘Which one?’”
Televised live on local TV, Clinton’s appearance came on the first day when Trump was assured of being the GOP nominee (with John Kasich dropping out just before he spoke).
Clinton never uttered “Donald Trump” in his otherwise all-encompassing remarks. But he alluded to the crazy character of the campaign by saying: “You couldn’t make some of this stuff up.”
When things get out of hand economically, he said, “people get scared and they look for automatic, simple answers.”
He said the trick “is how do you maximize the promise and minimize the pain?” He said Hillary (with wonkish plans he summarized for a long stretch) could handle what the world threw at America financially — including Mexico’s “upheaval” and the breakup of the Eurozone.
To illustrate his hope for America’s scientific prowess leading an economic boom, he told of a visit Tuesday to an eastern Kentucky college where nano-satellites were being made for deployment on the International Space Station. He said he was nervous handling something worth $1 million.
Nobody heckled Clinton inside, but he had to answer one woman who called out her wish that he run for president.
“That’s not constitutional,” he said. “That’s not happening.”
But after saying, “I’ll be 70 my next birthday (Aug. 19). I still feel young,” a woman in the SRO crowd shouted: “You look great!”
The quadruple heart-bypass survivor (now a vegetarian) joked that he usually gets: “You look good for a man your age.”
A half-hour into his talk, he said: “I’m almost done with this laundry list” of topics for a crowd occupying the 13,000-square-foot, wooden-floor ballroom (about a quarter of which wasn’t used.)
He concluded that “California has been great to our family — and pretty good for you” during his eight years as president (1993-2001).
Clinton noted the presence of several high-ranking Democrats. In the room were longtime ally and former Congress member Lynn Schenk, state Sen. Marty Block, county party chairwoman Francine Busby, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas and U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas (whom he didn’t name).
Also taking in the scene was city attorney candidate Gil Cabrera, who told Times of San Diego that a Bill Clinton campaign event in 1992 was the first political rally he attended — as a sophomore at California State University at Fullerton.
A group of about 15 Bernie Sanders backers displayed signs and banners outside the club — and several reprised the “We’re on a Journey for Bernie” song — but a police officer said their presence posed no problem.
After speaking, Clinton’s convoy made its way through the parking lot outside the San Diego Hall of Champions and out of the park via Presidents Way.
Greeting Clinton was a “TRUMP” sign mounted on Sean Colgan’s parked motorcycle. A 60-year-old Oceanside resident, he had come to show “Slick Willie” a “little love for Donald.”
Fran Grady Gilhooly, at the park to meet a “young scientist,” spotted Colgan and came to share her support for Trump — and tell a story about the Clintons in the White House.
A security aide on Air Force One told her that the Clintons “were ugly and nasty to their staff,” she said.
Gilhooly, 70, who recently moved to Mission Valley from Florida, said her Navy commander dad told his seven children to learn facts for themselves and ask: What’s your source?
Colgan, standing beside his bike, said: “I get a lot more thumbs up than flipped off.”
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