Wonkish, funny, and (gently) acerbic, the Bill Clinton speech Wednesday laid out a full defense of the Obama years, thrilled the Democratic convention crowd, and lasted 50-plus minutes.
Has Bill Clinton become President Obama’s defender-in-chief? It sure seems like it following the rousing and partisan Wednesday night address to the Democratic National Convention. If there was a bottom line to speech reaction, it was this: Nobody but the Big Dog could have clearly laid out such a detailed (and lengthy) case for Obama’s reelection. That was a point on which Democrats and many Republicans agreed.
“Clinton made a stronger case for the president’s reelection than either Obama or his campaign have been able to muster,” wrote Fred Barnes in the conservative Weekly Standard on Thursday. (Not that Mr. Barnes agreed with many of Clinton’s points – more on that in a bit.)
From the moment he sauntered on stage to his signature Fleetwood Mac song, “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," Clinton looked like a speaker delighted to have returned to the high reaches of the political game. As Jonathan Bernstein notes on his A plain blog about politics, the ex-president appeared energized by more than just the adulation of the crowd – though he loved that, too. Clinton seems to just love every aspect of the politician’s profession, including talking about policy.
“What he’s brilliant at doing is transforming [wonkish details] into something that can impress average voters by sounding like it’s extremely substantive while at the same time impressing policy folks by actually being extremely substantive, and (usually, and as far as I could hear tonight) factually honest,” wrote Mr. Bernstein.
For instance, Clinton laid the foundation for his defense of Obama’s economic record by citing facts and figures about the rate of job losses at the very end of George W. Bush’s term. He contrasted those with the slowly accumulating job gains under Obama, admitted that wasn’t enough, and tied the whole thing to the administration’s attempts to jump-start investment in solar energy and other developing technologies.