Earlier this week, I argued that former President Bill Clinton would aim his convention address primarily at fence-sitting whites. I was wrong. He did more than that. He did everything, and he arguably did it better than President Obama has ever done in his own right.
Clinton’s speech was at least 15 minutes too long and was laden with policy detail whose veracity may look like Swiss cheese by morning.
The case he made for Obama was merely passable: essentially, that the economic damage he has tried to repair was far worse than what Clinton inherited (true, obviously: Clinton took office after GDP had already resumed growth); and that if he’s reelected, “you will feel it” — it being a robust recovery — sooner rather than later (to borrow an old Clinton catchphrase).
But the case he made against Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan was devastating. The speech was chockfull of soundbite-ready takeaways: “There they go again.” “We can’t afford to double down on trickle-down.” “One word: Arithmetic.” And there were substantive segments on Medicare, welfare, student loan reform, energy policy, etc. (Curiously, as Ross Douthat has pointed out tonight, Clinton did not home in on premium support. Perhaps because the idea was hatched by a commission appointed by his administration?)
Clinton’s wasn’t just a speech aimed at wavering whites — although it certainly was that (many g’s were dropped, and the president referred to himself as a “county boy” at one point). It was aimed at seniors, women, and young people, and, with its riffs on voter ID laws and Medicaid, immigrants and minorities and people with disabilities.
It was yet another virtuoso performance from a man whose political talents, however at times infuriating and mendacious, you can’t help but wish were deployed on your side’s behalf.