Bill Clinton still the king

2012-09-07 12:01

New York - President number 42 still gets this game better than anyone else, and his speech at the Democratic National Convention proved it.
On Thursday at the Democratic National Convention incumbent Democrat Barack Obama formally accepted his party's nomination, and gave a solid speech about what his plans would be for the next four years, should he win the presidency, while painting a picture of what life would be like if his opponent won.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney delivered a similarly on point speech a week before at the Republican National Convention, and both men were well held up by members of their own party, and supporters.

Both candidates delivered what their party wanted in two pretty risk-free talks, to loud cheers from their own fans.

For Democrats, Joe Biden, Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and First Lady Michelle Obama all gave exactly what was expected of them, while for Republicans Romney’s wife Ann, New Mexico governor Susanna Martinez and Condoleezza Rice all carried the can well.

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan managed to gee up the crowd when he spoke, but we'll get to him later.

Ryan's speech

Of the hundreds of speeches over the six collective days, there was one man that stood out above everyone from both parties.

If anything is going to move the needle in the polls, which have held steady with almost equal support for both presidential candidates nationally (although Obama is marginally ahead in all the swing states except Misssouri), it was the 42nd president of the USA, Bill Clinton, who lit up the Democratic conference on Wednesday night with a 50-minute talk that was, quite simply, the most magnificent speech delivered by an American political figure for quite some time.

Clinton stood up at well after 22:00 on Wednesday, and kept the audience rapt for nearly an hour as he systematically laid out an argument for Democratic governance – with real effectiveness.
Clinton was enabled, however, with a speech the previous week by the VP candidate for the opposition, Paul Ryan, who delivered a talk so full of holes it invited America's top political communicator right into the door.

In fact Ryan's speech began its own whole conversation in the mainstream media about how fact-checking is actually a journalist's job – in other words, asking whether it is our job as journalists to tell you whether what the public figures are saying is true or not (which, in my opinion it is).

While politicians are not known for their honesty anywhere in the world except North Korea, Ryan's speech was full of so many false accusations that forming a retort wasn't at all difficult.

Direct aim

And being able to deliver a response with the panache Clinton possesses was an opportunity to be taken, which the former president did with both hands.
Clinton has an uncanny ability to speak to people outside party lines, which makes it difficult for his opposition to respond, even when he is lashing them.

While he clearly speaks for Democrats, he aims so directly that most folks listen. And a lot of this is because Clinton is clear – he spoke on Thursday in real language, not the chest-beating politically-hyped "if you don’t vote for me you are un-American" nonsense many in this country are so used to.

Here are some lines Clinton dropped which have been verified and are true:
"Well, since 1961, for 52 years now, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our private economy has produced 66 million private- sector jobs. So what's the job score? Republicans: Twenty-four million. Democrats: Forty-two [million]."
"He appointed Republican secretaries of defence, the Army, and transportation. He appointed a vice president who ran against him in 2008… President Obama appointed several members of his cabinet, even though they supported Hillary in the primary. Heck, he even appointed Hillary."

No rhetoric

"And in the last 29 months, our economy has produced about 4.5 million private-sector jobs." (This includes 500 000 manufacturing jobs).
"Now, when you say, 'What are you going to do about this $5 trillion you just added on?' [Republicans] say, 'Oh, we'll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code.' So then you ask, 'Well, which loopholes? And how much?' You know what [Republicans] say? 'See me about that after the election'." (This is true – Romney has not released specific plans on his spending cuts or tax loophole riddances.)
Read the transcript or watch the video, and you will see Clinton make such points in an easy and clear manner repeatedly.
Some of these points were absolutely embellished, as is the norm in politics, but they weren't lies. Clinton produced a series of logical, arguable conclusions without couching them in rhetoric.

And with an electorate that has come to hate the status quo, this is an extremely effective way to communicate.
Clinton also made the argument that he never hated Republicans when he was president or governor (of Arkansas) the way that he claims Republicans treat Obama, and then proceeded to pour praise on former Republican presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and George W Bush (for Pepfar, which South Africans can thank for assistance in the fight against Aids).

Breaking new ground

Clinton also managed to find the delicate balance between being emotional and being factual, especially when he got onto healthcare – and a rousing defence of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) led into just whom cuts to any national healthcare plans would affect.
Of all the speeches given by politicians in the last few weeks, this was easily the most significant. Obama's and Romney's may have grabbed the headlines, but Clinton, who understands this game better than anyone else, delivered to the utmost degree.

While others did what was expected of them, Clinton's broke new ground.
Democrats and their presidential candidate can be very thankful he is on their side of the aisle. He could make a difference in what could be a very tight election.

  • louiseroger.higham - 2012-09-07 18:22


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