It was a vintage Bill Clinton speech — “long and fiery” according to some watching the former President deliver a keynote address supporting President Barack Obama’s nomination to the November race for the White House at the Democratic National Convention.
In his nearly hour-long display of masterful oratory Mr. Clinton not only demolished numerous claims made by the Republican leadership on Mr. Obama’s alleged policy failures regarding Medicaid and debt-reduction, he also laid out the case for re-electing the President to a second term in a way Mr. Obama’s own team has not done thus far.
Rich in statistical detail, Mr. Clinton’s speech on the penultimate day of the convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, repeatedly alluded to core Democratic principles including the need for an American future based on broadly shared prosperity. “We think ‘We’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘You’re on your own’,” he said.
Though Mr. Clinton and Mr. Obama are said to have started off on an icy and bitter note during the 2008 primaries when the President squared off against Mr. Clinton’s wife and current Secretary of State Hillary, Mr. Clinton left little doubt that he had delivered on his convention remarks and the two men hugged warmly after Mr. Obama joined the podium at the end of the speech.
On numerous instances Mr. Clinton paused dramatically, wagged his finger pedantically at a mesmerised crowd to deliver punch-line messages. On one occasion he underscored a profound message rebutting the core Republican challenge to Mr. Obama, saying, “No President — not me or any of my predecessors — could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the President’s contract you will feel it. I believe that with all my heart.”
In corroborating the argument that Mr. Obama had consistently braved a steep uphill challenge during his first term, particularly on job creation, Mr. Clinton spewed out some surprising but fact-checked numbers. He said, “Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!”
While Mr. Clinton similarly sought to dispel myths about Mr. Obama “gutting” welfare to work programmes, foisting a cost-escalating and freedom-inhibiting healthcare law on the nation and fuelling debt through an unproductive auto bailout package, his most poignant message was unstated — that not only Democrats but all Americans needed to vote Mr. Obama back in for four years to finish the job.
Even as Mr. Clinton’s eloquence appeared to raise the pitch of the entire convention, often bringing delegates on the floor to a standing ovation, his performance came on the heels of avoidable controversy when pro-Israeli groups objected to the Party’s platform dropping out a reference to Jerusalem being the capital of Israel.
However Mr. Obama, who will address the convention in a grand-finale speech at Charlotte this evening, quickly defused the burgeoning, heated arguments on the matter when he insisted, despite boos on the convention floor, that the line be reinserted.