Clinton’s DNC Speech: A Savvy Move for Him

The former president's vouching for President Obama was in Bill Clinton's best interests. Here's why.

The Washington Post/Getty Images
The Washington Post/Getty Images

(The Root) — As the first former U.S. president to nominate a successive one for re-election, Bill Clinton made history last night. And he put aside his uneasy personal relations in his 49-minute speech to praise his erstwhile Democrat rival in the White House and to steamroll the GOP policy issues laid out at its recent convention.

The brunt of Clinton’s statistics-laden attack aimed to eviscerate Romney-Ryan’s economic proposals. “In Tampa,” Clinton said, “the Republicans’ argument against [President Obama’s] re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

Clinton was uniquely suited to address the “mess” since both the GOP and Obama credit him for overseeing an expansive U.S. economy. The surplus he left President George W. Bush was squandered on the wrongheaded Iraq War and tax cuts for the wealthy that nearly bankrupted the economy during his final days in office.  

The Republicans, by comparison, dared not showcase their former president at their national convention, not even incognito.          

As president of a global foundation, Clinton treaded lightly with Bush 43rd, since he has fundraised with Bush-the-father and praised the AIDS initiatives of the son. “[President Obama] inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs.

“Are we where we want to be? No. Is the president satisfied? No. Are we better off than we were when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is YES.”

Working mightily to hush the raucous crowd during his lengthy speech, Clinton lectured: “No one, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all of the damage [President Obama] found in just four years.” The crowd erupted, “Four more years!”

In making the case for Obama’s re-election, Clinton characteristically made no bones about the case being his, and (only) his to make. “What new ideas did we bring to Washington?” he asked in promoting his administration’s surplus budget. “Arithmetic!”

Stirring beneath the history-making in the hall was the sociology of the first black president getting nominated by the faux black president. (Writer Toni Morrison proffered the perception once that the white man from Arkansas was the “first black president.”)