Politics & Government

The Clinton and Trump I know


By now, every voter in the United States knows Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Or at least they think they do.

But most of us only have seen the candidates on TV. What are Clinton and Trump like in person, in real life, when the cameras and microphones are somewhere else?

The State spoke to six South Carolinians who have met the candidates in person to hear more about the Clinton and Trump they know.

Ed McMullen
McMullen Provided

Ed McMullen: ‘He’s not a lightweight’

McMullen Public Affairs, Trump SC campaign chairman

“He’s ... extremely voracious in his reading and understanding. He’s not a lightweight. You don’t get through Wharton School of Business without doing some work.

“On Pearl Harbor Day (in 2015), we had an event on the Yorktown (aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor). That was the day the campaign released the vetting plan for refugees. ... He met with senior military figures in New York who told him there was no vetting going on. It was a substantial briefing, and when he got to South Carolina, I was there when they discussed, ‘We’re going to have to release a statement,’ and he had a discussion with that group. He was a classic CEO.

“There’s a perception that he flies by the seat of his pants. But there were four people in the room before they released the release. ... He was listening intently, and when someone made a point he thought was valid and important, he would change direction. He was aware of Jimmy Carter’s handling of the Iranian crisis (when Iranian citizens were temporarily barred from entering the United States) and the legality of it. ... He had all the knowledge. ... We tend to think in terms of politics, he was thinking in terms of policy.

“The only other person who can hold a candle to him in terms of charisma is Ronald Reagan, and (Trump) has more charisma one on one.”

Former S.C. Gov. Dick Riley: ‘Never known her to be dishonest’

Education secretary under President Bill Clinton

“Bill Clinton and I were both elected governor on the same day in 1978, so we were both new governors when we met. I told my wife Tunky in 1979 (after a meeting of the Southern Governors Association) that I was so impressed with that young governor and his wife, and then my wife and she got to be good friends.

“(Hillary Clinton) and I served on the same task force for the Southern Governors Association in 1981 and ’82 focused on health care for children and Medicaid, and we came up with a plan to help very poor pregnant women that went to Congress and the governors’ association, and it ended up getting passed into law.

“She was a great advantage to President Clinton. ... She didn’t speak a lot in Cabinet meetings, but if I had an education matter, I would always copy her on it, and she was always interested and would inquire about it.

“She’s a very strong person, and she’s been politically abused by all 17 Republicans who ran for president, especially Donald Trump. But the idea that she’s dishonest, I’ve never known her to be dishonest. ...

“She’s a careful listener. She always wants all views to be heard, and then she decides things in a very deliberate way, and always in favor of children. In a lot of meetings, she’s not quick to say anything, but, when she says something, everyone gets quiet.”

Teddy Turner: ‘He’s a normal guy’

Teacher, entrepreneur, former congressional candidate

“Back in ’91, I was doing a yacht race tour with a Russian and an American boat going up the East Coast. I called Trump’s Castle (casino/hotel and marina) in Atlantic City, and (Trump) said, ‘I’d love to be involved.’

“They hosted both of us, and brought the Boys and Girls Clubs from Atlantic City on board, which was neat. That was a tie-in we couldn’t have had without them. ... That was our connection to the community. ...

“When anyone asks me what he’s like, I say he’s a normal guy. He was just talking to the crew about things on the boat. He’s not highfalutin’. If he was on a construction site and wasn’t wearing a suit, you would think he was working on the building.”

Don and Carol Fowler, with grandson Fuller and Hillary Clinton Provided

Don Fowler: ‘Very different personalities’

Former head of the Democratic National Committee

“I first met her after she had moved to Arkansas. I had known Bill Clinton since 1972, and I ran into the two of them in the Little Rock airport. I don’t even know if they were married yet. But here was this attractive woman, and he was escorting her through the airport. …

“They have very different personalities. Her husband is gregarious to the nth degree, but she’s a much more private person, and that leads people to think she has something to hide. … But when I saw her in the debate (on Sept. 26), I really saw how much the private person had become the public person. … She just knew what the hell she was talking about, and in light of the rudeness she had to face, she showed poise, she was never thrown off and acquitted herself with integrity.

“When we saw a lot of each other was during my two years as chair of the DNC and for about three or four years after. She was very competent, honest, and didn’t fool around. … If you encountered her in circumstances where it would be appropriate to have a conversation, she would be willing to engage in a conversation about whatever you want to talk about. She’s always been polite, and any suggestion otherwise is just totally incorrect.”

Gary Turner
Gary Turner, his wife Kristy and daughter Madison meet with Donald Trump. Provided

Gary Turner: ‘A kind, gentle family’

President of Talley Manufacturing in Santee

“More of my interactions have been with Donald Jr. and Eric.

“(We met when) Donald Jr. calls in to place an order. I was shocked by the name, so I asked him about it, and he said, ‘Yes, that’s my father.’ He came out, and we went shooting and hunting.

“The first time I met (Donald Trump) was at Don (Jr.) and Vanessa’s wedding. He really is bigger than life. … One thing I remember, as the campaign was taking off, I had my 15-year-old daughter with me, and he sat down and talked with her. For him to spend time with her and take the time to answer her questions, that meant a lot. ...

“Last year, I was having dinner with Eric, (his wife) Laura, Don and Vanessa (and others from the gun industry). We were in the back of the restaurant when this young couple comes in in their prom clothes. When the waiter comes over, Don Jr. says, ‘I want to buy them dinner.’… When the bill came, I think he was disappointed they didn’t eat much. … They came over to our table afterward, and the girl was visibly moved.

“Who would go into a restaurant and buy that couple dinner? I don’t think I would have done it. But they’re a kind, gentle family, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. To know them and be around them, and then see how the media portrays them, it’s like I’ve known completely different people for the last 15 years. The family I know is not who they’re describing.”

Clyburn Tracy Glantz tglantz@thestate.com

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn: ‘She’s totally not like that’

Democratic House assistant leader

“I first started working with her while she was first lady. I was first elected to Congress the same year Bill Clinton was elected president. Then, I was elected president of the freshman class for the second session, in 1994, and that’s when I interacted a lot with the White House and the leadership. The Black Caucus made a big push for health care, and on those issues I started to work with her.

“People called it Hillarycare back then, just like they derisively say Obamacare today, but what most people forget is that we did get SCHIP passed as the law of the land to get health care to children.

“She’s great to work with. I once heard my wife, who is a retired librarian and doesn’t do public speeches, referred to as the total opposite of what she is, just because she’s a congressman’s wife. I often think about that when I hear her totally misrepresented. ... Of course, she would be guarded because a lot has been written about her that is the total opposite.

“I sat down to eat lunch with her right after she became secretary of state, just a few months after she lost the nomination to President Obama. And I’ve been accused of being the person who caused her to lose in South Carolina. And she has never said anything derogatory about that. She’s nothing but respectful and friendly. So if someone thinks she’s the devil in disguise ... she’s totally not like that.

“She’s thoughtful, competent, very sensible, almost to a fault, and very defensive of her family, and that’s gotten her into some difficulty. But it’s not a fault when you’re defensive about your husband and your family.”