Bill ClintonBill Clinton is a very persuasive man. He’s persuasive in the way every good salesman is persuasive, which is that you don’t know you’re being convinced of something until it’s all over. There’s a good chance you might not even know then. You might be pretty sure it was your idea all along.


Case in point: the former president has been reaping the benefits of a vegan diet for several years now. It’s been good for him—30 pounds lost—and he’s pretty sure it’ll be good for the rest of us. So the campaign begins: he’s made diet issues a priority for the Clinton Foundation. He’s brought Hillary into the fold. He gives an interview for an article on the AARP website, in which he talks about wanting to live to be a grandfather.


And he makes his transformation sound simple. Prosaic and yet pleasurable. Our most sensuous living ex-president (OK, the winner in a slow race) starts by talking about how good it feels. And how the food is delicious—like the “unbelievable quinoa dish” prepared for him by the president of Peru—and plentiful.


Gradually, he turns evangelical, talking about bedrock family values with a dose of patriotism: “‘the way we consume food and what we consume’ are driving the unsustainable level of health care spending in America. To truly change the conditions that lead to bad habits and poor health, he warns, ‘we have to demand it by changing the way we live. You have to make a conscious decision to change for your own well-being, and that of your family and your country.’”


OK, sure, it doesn’t matter. You were always thinking about removing some meat and dairy from your diet. Now the seed of plant-only dining has been buried in your subconscious, where it will soon send out its roots, tentacle-like, and you will be telling you kids they should look into veganism. Bill Clinton did it and blah blah health care costs and blah blah global warming and blah blah I feel so much better already blah blah.


You’re there and he didn’t even break a sweat.


Photo: Bill Clinton in Malawi at the end of July (persuading someone of something without even trying). Barbara Kinney / Clinton Foundation