I was chatting with a reader Sunday at the Cooks and Books event on Hilton Head Island when she asked me if I had seen Bill Clinton speak Friday in Bluffton.
I thought she had asked, “Did you see ‘Brooklyn’?”
As in the Oscar-nominated film about an Irish girl’s search for home.
Which, boy had I.
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“Oh my gosh,” I told her, “I sobbed through the whole thing. SOBBED.”
If she looked at me oddly, I did not catch it.
In fact, it wasn’t until she repeatedly said “he” that I knew we were not on the same page.
This conversation is not about a movie. This conversation is about something a lot less fun to gab about.
Once clarity had been re-established, the woman told me about the rally, where the former United States president spoke in support of his wife’s candidacy for president the day before the South Carolina Democratic Primary, which she went on to win.
Inevitably, we talked about the protesters, the man and woman who stood up and shouted at Clinton three-quarters of the way through his speech and who were soon escorted out, while Clinton said “No! Don’t throw him out!” in a way I only half-believed.
But I’ve probably been watching too much “House of Cards.”
“No. Don’t go. Stay. Tell me more about Benghazi,” I pictured him saying in a flat-voiced fourth-wall break-out to the camera.
The reader told me she thought the protesters were rude. And disrespectful. And that they wouldn’t let the president speak.
I was interested in hearing her perspective because I had just gotten off the phone with one of the protesters, Monique Haina of Bluffton, who has been regularly referred to as “another woman” in the national press.
As in, “Another woman began to shout. ‘Hillary lied over four coffins of our military men. She lied.’ ”
I said, ‘She lied over the four coffins.’ He said, ‘No. She didn’t.’ I said ‘Did she or didn’t she lie (about Benghazi)?’ He said ‘No.’ I was like ‘Yeah. She did.’
Monique Haina on the words she exchanged with former President Bill Clinton at a Hillary Clinton rally Friday in Bluffton
“I said, ‘She lied over the four coffins.’ ” Haina told me over the phone. “He said, ‘No. She didn’t.’ I said ‘Did she or didn’t she lie (about Benghazi)?’ He said ‘No.’ I was like ‘Yeah. She did.’ ”
The man, who would only identify himself as “the Marine sergeant” to our reporter and who Haina said would not speak to me, is thought to be Ethan Arguello of Hilton Head.
Haina would not confirm his last name, but refers to him on Facebook as “Ethan” in a selfie taken at the rally and did so once in our phone conversation.
The man in the video and other photos appears to be the same former Marine who stood outside the Parris Island gates in 2014 and protested the negotiations that led to the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. In that protest, Sgt. Major Paul Archie got into an altercation with Arguello, getting so close to Arguello’s face that he knocked the hat off Arguello’s head. The incident led to Archie’s arrest and resignation. The charges against him were later dropped.
Arguello is also the former Marine who attempted to run a 5K in Savannah on his hands and knees in honor of fallen troops and the amputees who survived the war but have faced an uphill battle ever since.
Before I knew all this, though, my first thought about the protesters was that they were plants, people from somewhere else, sent here to cause a ruckus.
My second thought was, “All the fun political stuff happens in Beaufort County.” This is where Donald Trump gave out Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number. It’s where Sen. Marco Rubio broke his tooth on a frozen Twix.
And it’s where a former United States president got into a shouting match with two protesters.
He told them to shut up!
And then he scolded them!
“I’m not your commander-in-chief anymore,” he rasped, “but if I were, I’d tell you to be more polite.”
I wanted to know who the protesters were, why they did what they did and what it was like to yell at a former United States president — and get yelled at by a former United States president.
“We fight for the Constitution,” the man she would only identified as “my friend” and “the Marine sergeant” told me through Haina. “We fight for all people. … We are all brothers and sisters.”
Haina and the man are members of American Patriot the III%, a national group whose mission is to “bring together and unite Americans from all walks of life who believe in the liberties and freedoms our founding fathers set forth in the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
They are constitutionalists who describe themselves as non-violent and who seek peaceful protest.
But they also are looking for truth and answers and see it as their duty to uncover both.
They feel lied to by politicians, and specifically lied to by Hillary Clinton.
“It’s ridiculous she’s getting away with this,” Haina said. “She has no right to be up there.”
Haina has always been interested in politics and remembers getting into political back-and-forths with her father growing up.
“My mom and dad raised us to be honest,” she said. “It’s not always easy. My dad would always say ‘My word is my word.’ It doesn’t mean we’re perfect. … But when (a lie) impacts other people, it’s huge.”
It is accountability that drives Haina. It is why on Thursday night, she and her friend agreed to go to the rally and say something.
She didn’t go into it lightly, either.
“We’re not ones to be disrespectful,” she said. “He’s a former president.”
At the rally, the two attempted to blend in. They posed with a Hillary sign. And they let Clinton get comfortable and well into his speech before standing up.
They had decided in the parking lot that the man would speak first. They knew they’d be thrown out, and Haina thought he had more of a platform as a veteran.
“I wanted him to have the most time.”
Haina planned to video the protest to share with friends later. She marveled Monday that it had received nearly 2 million views on YouTube and had more than 11,000 likes on it.
As Clinton talked, her adrenaline was pumping as she waited for the signal.
When the speech began to touch on veterans issues, she finally felt a tap on her knee.
“And that’s it,” she said. “He went.”
And then she did.
“It was kind of nerve-racking,” Haina said of her protest.
This was the first time she had ever done anything like this. It was also the first time she had ever yelled at a former president — and been yelled at by one.
“You don’t want to be disruptive. Not intentionally,” she said.
Though she expected to be thrown out, Haina seemed most shocked by the crowd’s reaction, by their booing and hissing at a veteran and by their support of Hillary Clinton in the first place.
“The Clintons do not understand that a sleeping giant has been awakened,” Haina said in an email to me later, “and the majority of the American people are tired of being lied to … as if we are all blind sheep who are expected to just follow and not ask questions or take politicians to task for their lies and crimes.”
There was one thing that happened at the rally that wasn’t so shocking to Haina, though.
The way they were treated as they were escorted out.
“The sheriff’s deputies were respectful and kept apologizing,” she said. “I want to thank them for that.”