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The Big Hug


 Clinton Wows Dems, Urges 2nd Term for Obama


In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s reelection . . . went something like this: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

Listen to me now. No president, no president—not me, not any of my predecessors—no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.

Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.


For 45 minutes last night in Charlotte, Bill Clinton explained in plain language why Barack Obama should be reelected—what he has accomplished against nearly impossible odds—and why the Republican attacks against Obama and the Democrats are not to be believed. Following strong speeches by women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke and Elizabeth Warren, Clinton drew sharp, clear distinctions between the Democrats and the GOP: “We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.'”

In what Talking Points Memo calls an “explano-smackdown,” Clinton methodically took head-on and demolished the GOP’s main lines of attack on President Obama. He set the record straight on the Recovery Act (stimulus); the Affordable Care Act; the so-called $716 million “robbing” of Medicare; the auto industry restructuring; job creation; the smear that Obama is weakening work requirements in the welfare reform bill; and the federal debt. As Slate’s John Dickerson notes, “Clinton’s speech had several parts: an answer to the question ‘Are you better off?,’ a shaming of the modern GOP with the example set by past Republican presidents, and a deeper attempt to tie Obama’s policies to bedrock American values, a job Michelle Obama had begun the night before.”

Charles Blow of the New York Times observes, “the masterful Bill Clinton wrapped the evening up as only he could: delivering a wonky speech with the passion of a southern preacher and keeping the crowd rapt the whole way through.” Clinton also answered quite convincingly, repeatedly, the question “Are we better off now than we were four years ago?” One of our favorite comments was a tweet by Ben Greenman, an editor at The New Yorker, posted on DailyKos: “Bill Clinton should be the Secretary of Explaining Things.”

There were so many lines to love in Bill Clinton’s speech last night. And his were not the sniping personal-attack zingers that swarmed like mosquitoes in Tampa—they delighted because they were true, based in fact. And he had facts by the handful (transcript here).

The Quotable Explainer in Chief

We are here to nominate a president . . . I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.

We Democrats, we think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it, with a relentless focus on the future, with business and government actually working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. You see, we believe that “We’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “You’re on your own.”

So who’s right? Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private-sector jobs. So what’s the job score? Republicans: twenty-four million. Democrats: forty-two. [confirmed by PolitiFact]

Now, . . . there’s a reason for this. It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics. Why? Because poverty, discrimination, and ignorance restrict growth.

What works in the real world is cooperation, business and government, foundations and universities. Ask the mayors who are here. Los Angeles is getting green and Chicago is getting an infrastructure bank because Republicans and Democrats are working together to get it. They didn’t check their brains at the door. They didn’t stop disagreeing. But their purpose was to get something done.

Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly “robbing Medicare” of $716 billion. That’s the same attack they leveled against the Congress in 2010, and they got a lot of votes on it. But it’s not true. Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, “the biggest, coldest power play,” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget! You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did. . . .

In 2010, as the president’s recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around. The Recovery Act saved or created millions of jobs and cut taxes—let me say this again—cut taxes for 95 percent of the American people. And in the last 29 months, our economy has produced about 4.5 million private-sector jobs. We could have done better, but last year the Republicans blocked the president’s job plan, costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another job score. President Obama: plus 4.5 million. Congressional Republicans: zero. . . .

We all know that Governor Romney opposed the plan to save G.M. and Chrysler. So here’s another job score. Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio and across the country? Here—here’s another job score. Obama: 250,000. Romney: zero.


Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.

Don’t you ever forget, when you hear them talking about this, that Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office, in the 12 years before I took office . . . and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left, because it defied arithmetic.

We simply can’t afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle-down.

My fellow Americans, all of us in this grand hall and everybody watching at home, when we vote in this election, we’ll be deciding what kind of country we want to live in. If you want a winner-take- all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

If you want—if you want America—if you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures [applause] just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority, and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.

“For the last five minutes of the speech, everyone in the auditorium stood to let his words fall on their faces,” writes Slate’s John Dickerson. And, as Clinton ended his remarks to joyous applause, from within the Time Warner Cable Arena and beyond (didn’t we hear shouts of “four more hours!”?), Barack Obama walked onstage. Clinton gave a slight bow as the president approached, and they embraced, then turned to face the energized crowd, partners joined in a common cause for a stronger, more perfect union.



We have been yearning and starving for years to hear this kind of spirited and hard-hitting defense of Democratic priorities and this president’s efforts. It’s not as though Obama has not spoken up for himself—he just hasn’t done it enough, and not with the warmth and good cheer and mastery of the podium that Bill Clinton brings. And, too, it makes a difference when the defense and the case for Four More Years is coming from a popular two-term president of a more-than-successful economy who also endured obstructionism and even impeachment from the opposition party. There is a hard-earned authoritativeness in Clinton’s voice, and the people were lovin’ it. We just pray that millions of independents and those elusive white male voters remember the Better Times of the late 1990s and vote as directed by the Big Dog.

Clinton’s arguments were all the more persuasive, observes The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, because Clinton and Obama are not personally close. Everyone knows this. But their “fraught history,” he says,

“makes [Clinton] the ideal spokesman to appeal to those skeptical former Obama voters that his campaign is trying to win back. . . .  it was exactly their lack of personal chemistry and failure to become ‘close friends’ that gave Clinton’s speech its lift. A subtext of the address was that, just like Bill Clinton, wavering voters need not love Obama to understand that he’s a better choice than Romney. When the two Presidents came together and hugged after the speech was (finally) over, the distance between them made their embrace all the more powerful.”

For more about the warming relationship between Obama and Clinton, read Ryan Lizza’s “Let’s Be Friends” (New Yorker 9/10/12).


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