President Barack Obama took a chance on the former president Wednesday, awarding him the evening’s prime speaking slot, and Clinton came through for him big time.
Clinton has been known to use these occasions to burnish his own legacy — and indeed he did a lot of that in Charlotte — but he used his eighth appearance before a Democratic convention to defend Obama while at the same time sticking to the Obama team’s favorite strategy, “Blame Bush.” Said Clinton: “President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all the damage he found in just four years.”
And Clinton launched a rebuttal of Republican criticisms, defending the auto bailout, health care, even the waivers the Obama administration has granted that gut Clinton’s signature welfare reform law.
The president emerged onstage at the end of the 51-minute speech to embrace the former president in a man hug.
Clinton has a quick temper, but the flashes are brief and quickly forgotten, and the man does not seem to hold grudges. He and Obama’s supporters clashed during the 2008 Democratic Primary in which his wife, Hillary, was a candidate. But by the election, bygones were bygones. Moreover, Clinton said of Obama on Wednesday: “He appointed Cabinet members who supported Hillary in the primaries. Heck, he even appointed Hillary!”
In keeping with tradition, the indefatigable secretary of state stayed away from partisan politics and the convention, the first one she has missed since 1968.
Of course, the question arose as to whether Hillary, who is stepping down from the State Department after Obama’s first term, would run again in 2016. Bill Clinton’s answer: “We’re not kids anymore. I don’t have any idea if she’ll ever run again. She says she won’t.”
Ronald Reagan redefined the age at which it’s acceptable to run. He was 69 when he ran the first time, the same age Hillary Clinton will be in 2016. The dreams of dynasty, even if only idle ones, will die if Obama loses. And for a host of reasons, perhaps the least of which is his wife, Bill Clinton truly wants to see Obama win in November.
Barack Obama is not making the mistake that Vice President Al Gore made in 2000 when he chose to keep the former president at arm’s length. When you can’t run on your abysmal economic record; can’t run on your ham-handed foreign policy record; can’t run on your deeply unpopular undoing of the nation’s healthcare system and the new tax that accompanies it; and can’t run on your failure to address the looming bankruptcy of Social Security; you do what you have to do: try to persuade people they’re voting for the ostensible third term of Bill Clinton, rather than for four more dreary years of Obamaism.