Former President Clinton is hugged on stage by President Obama at the Democratic… (Michael Reynolds / European…)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A rivalry forgotten, Bill Clinton enthusiastically and extensively made the case for reelecting his Democratic successor, declaring that President Obama “can build a new American Dream economy.”
Clinton’s speech, all 49 minutes of it, served to officially nominate Obama, whom the former president called “a man who's cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.” And it ended with the two men locking arms on stage to an adoring crowd, without any hint of their past political rivalry.
Before he began the hard sell, Clinton worked to establish his bipartisan credentials and his post-partisan status, describing the policies of Republican presidents he agreed with and even his work alongside some of them.
And, addressing not just the rabid partisans in the Time Warner Cable Arena but swing voters watching on television, Clinton argued that, rather than the staunch liberal Republicans portray him as, Obama has actually been a pragmatic problem solver, more interested in results than settling political scores.
To punctuate the point, he noted, “Heck, he even appointed Hillary!”
The 66-year-old sounded somewhat hoarse as he began, but his voice seemed to strengthen as he defended Obama’s stewardship of the economy.
And days after the Obama campaign was mixed up by the question of whether the nation was indeed better off now than it was four years ago, Clinton, aided by the crowd, answered definitively in the affirmative.
He compared the situation Obama inherited to that which he had encountered in 1993. But, Clinton explained, the economy was far weaker in 2009, while acknowledging Americans are not yet feeling the results of Obama’s policies.
“Listen to me: No president, no president, not me, not any of my predecessors could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years,” he said. “But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”
“I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.”
As the National Football League season opener played on one of the major networks, Clinton offered his own running score. He listed Obama administration actions and how many jobs they created. On the auto industry bailout, which he said Romney opposed, it was, “Obama, 250,000, Romney 0.”
“Are you listening in Michigan and Ohio?”
Throughout the speech Clinton veered on and off script, drawing on the enthusiasm of the crowd.
“We’re having a good time, but this is serious,” he said at one point.
The meat of his remarks admonished Mitt Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan for distorting Obama’s record. “It takes some brass” for Ryan to blast Obama for Medicare cuts that he himself had proposed, he said at one point.
And days after the national debt topped $16 trillion, Clinton said Republicans have “failed the arithmetic test.”
“Don't you ever forget when you hear them talking about this that Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office … and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left,” he said. “We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down.”