Nominating Barack Obama for a second term, the former president brought to bear the full weight of his political experience and forensic skill Wednesday night, on behalf of a man who was once his adversary. Rewritten up until the final hour before he took the podium, this was among his finest campaign speeches, even surpassing the address he delivered at the last Democratic convention in 2008. Clinton presented an exhaustive argument for Obama (and against the Republicans) with four key elements:
A lesson in presidential economics delivered in professorial style, acknowledging complexity while at the same time presenting issues in an understandable and even simple style. There has been no political leader since FDR with Clinton’s capacity to perform this rhetorical magic, and there is none today who can match him. He possesses a singular authority to discuss employment, spending, and debt, having proved his GOP opponents wrong so decisively in the past that they now attempt to cite him as a model.
Calling him out that way — as both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have done in recent weeks — was a woeful mistake. He repaid the cynical compliment by “scoring” them and their party on budgetary arithmetic and job creation, an exercise from which they did not emerge unscathed.
Republicans have ruled the country for more presidential terms than Democrats over the past 53 years, noted Clinton, but they have overseen the creation of only 24 million jobs, compared with 42 million credited to Democrats. He extended that theme into the present campaign, praising Obama for 250,000 new jobs in the restored auto industry, and castigating Romney for his advice to bankrupt the industry, which would have created “zero” jobs (and probably caused the loss of millions). And the “country boy from Arkansas” did the sums that show why the Romney/Ryan budget plan is a hoax, doling out tax breaks to billionaires that will supposedly be offset by reforms that they will only detail “after the election.”
Second, Clinton focused on debunking the current campaign’s enormous outpouring of Republican lies, although he politely avoided that term. As the author of welfare reform and the expansion of health care for poor children, he is passionate, knowledgeable, and highly articulate on these matters. He explained “what really happened” with the welfare work requirement that Republicans have accused Obama of gutting – and how Ryan and Romney plan to rob and ruin Medicare with the same level of cuts that they falsely attribute to Obama.