Bill Clinton: 'We're all in this together'
President Barack Obama waves after Former President Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Alan Kennedy-Shaffer, an Army National Guard specialist from Harrisburg, salutes during the Pledge of Allegiance at the final Pennsylvania Delegation breakfast this morning at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton embrace after Clinton's speech on day two of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi leaves the stage after speaking on day two of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Former President Bill Clinton speaks during day two of the Democratic National Convention.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former President Bill Clinton lent his voice and considerable popularity to President Barack Obama's re-election bid Wednesday, arguing forcefully that a figure "cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside" is the nation's best hope for a return to prosperity.
His speech before the Democratic National Convention, in tones ranging from fiery to conversational, earned him a grateful embrace from the man he defended as Mr. Obama emerged from the wings at its conclusion to share in the delegates' sustained applause.
Mr. Clinton issued a sharp critique of Republican policies, while offering a point-by-point case that, despite continuing economic challenges, Mr. Obama's policies had improved the nation. He responded to the taunting question asked regularly by their Republican opponents -- are you better off than you were four years ago?
"Are we where we want to be today? No ... Are we better off than when he took office, with the economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month? The answer is -- yes."
For much of the evening, the atmosphere in the Time Warner Cable Arena seemed to lack the electricity of the previous evening, but that changed as the Democratic icon took the stage. The party activists cheered him repeatedly and responded with laughter and lusty boos to his attacks on the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
In the face of persistently high unemployment, he said that the Recovery Act, reviled by Republicans, stemmed the tide of job losses and led to millions of new jobs. He credited the auto bailout for saving 250,000 jobs in that industry, and, calling on the voters of Michigan and Ohio to pay attention, said, "So here's another jobs score: Obama 250,000; Romney, zero."
Mr. Clinton praised the effects of the administration's health care law, and predicted dire results should Republicans follow through on their promise to repeal it.
"So are we all better off because President Obama fought for health care reform ... You bet we are," he said.
The former president derided the Republican charge that the health care law stripped $716 billion from Medicare.
"Here's what really happened. There were no cuts in benefits, none. What the president did was save money by making cuts in unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies," he said.
The signer of the welfare reform legislation rejected the GOP charge that the administration was attempting to weaken its work requirements, saying the administration had instead proposed changes that would increase employment results.
"You hear that? More work," he said.
"In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn't finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in," Mr. Clinton said.
"He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators."
Mr. Clinton reiterated the argument that has echoed through the Time Warner Cable Arena, that Republicans offer policies that will prolong inequality by shielding the rich.
"The most important question is, what kind of country do you want to live in? If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket," he said. "If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility -- a we're-all-in-this-together society -- you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
Mr. Clinton's rousing defense of his successor came on a night when Democrats offered a running rebuttal to Republican charges that the administration was somehow hostile to business. Among the more prominent speakers were the CEOs of Costco and Carmax, who argued that their prosperity was rooted in the overall success of society.
"As a businessman, I'll tell you Mitt Romney just doesn't get it," said Austin Ligon, the Carmax executive, "That's why I'm voting to extend Barack Obama's management contract for four more years."
Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren joined in the message that businesses thrive in tandem with the overall community. The reception for the Harvard law professor displayed her overwhelming popularity with Democratic activists. But it also carried an element of risk for the campaign in that her fiery speech earlier this year asserting that no business succeeds on its own was a kind of intellectual template for Mr. Obama's "You didn't build that" statement, one mocked over and over again at last week's GOP convention.
Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers union, praised the administration decision to aid the auto industry as he appeared in tandem with a video recapping the history of the firms' near failure followed by the domestic manufacturers' rebound.
The testimonials to Mr. Obama's policies fostering business were mixed with continuing denunciations of Mr. Romney's business background, including the appearances of three former employees of firms that failed after takeovers by Mr. Romney's former firm, Bain Capital.
The convention organizers also moved to quell a platform controversy that had provided fodder for a wave of criticism from Republicans. The platform as originally approved broke with past documents by omitting any mention of the word "God," and, in contrast with the GOP document approved in Tampa, did not assert that Jerusalem was the proper capital of Israel. Mr. Romney had called the Jerusalem omission "shameful."
As the convention reconvened Wednesday, its chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, railroaded through voice votes to change the language on both points, an action that promoted "boos" from many delegates on the convention floor.
The Associated Press reported that the changes were made at the direction of Mr. Obama.
Asked about the controversy during a briefing earlier Wednesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney pointed to the longstanding nature of the U.S. attitude toward the status of Jerusalem, one that he said was "exactly the same position that presidents and administrations have held since 1967 -- presidents of both parties, administrations of both parties."
"You certainly didn't hear leaders of the Republican Party during the George W. Bush administration saying that his position of his government that Jerusalem needed to be resolved in final status negotiations between the two parties -- Israelis and Palestinians -- was 'shameful,'" he said, according to a White House transcript of his remarks. "I didn't hear Mitt Romney say that. I certainly didn't hear [vice presidential candidate] Paul Ryan say that."
Mr. Clinton's appearance was the latest chapter in the complex relationship between the two Democratic stars. Mr. Clinton was a caustic critic of candidate Obama as he defended his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, when the two senators waged an epic nomination battle in 2008.
As the Democrats met in Denver four years ago, one of the pre-convention story lines carried an element of suspense over whether the Clintons would demonstrate real support for the nominee after a campaign that, in the ex-president's words then, "generated so much heat it increased global warming."
Ms. Clinton, now Mr. Obama's secretary of state, ended any concern on that front with her convention address praising the man who had narrowly defeated her, and Mr. Clinton added to the Obama campaign's comfort level when he said that "everything I learned in my eight years as president, and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job."
Many Democrats saw Al Gore's conspicuous reluctance to enlist Mr. Clinton in his 2000 campaign as a key reason for his narrow Electoral College defeat. The Obama forces had no similar reluctance as the Democratic icon stumped vigorously for the nominee.
During his presidency, Mr. Clinton presided over a booming economy and a balanced budget, although he left office under the shadow of the Monica Lewinsky scandal and ensuing impeachment trial. Since then, however, his popularity has gone nowhere but up, with an approval rating, according to the Gallup Poll, of 69 percent. His image is so positive that the Republican Party, which once tried to drive him from office, now cites his presidency as a positive contrast to Mr. Obama.
When he ran for reelection in 1996, Mr. Clinton, like Mr. Obama this year, faced criticism that his second-term agenda, centered on a vague promise to build a bridge to the 21st century, offered few policy details. The key difference was that in contrast to the incumbent this year, Mr. Clinton was running with the strength of a growing economy at his back.
Ms. Clinton's diplomatic role kept her away from partisan politics through this campaign season, but the once controversial figure now has popularity ratings that rival her husband's. At this point, she appears to be the early, perhaps prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination should she choose to run in 2016.
Tonight, Mr. Obama will accept the nomination in the arena rather than at nearby Bank of America Stadium. Organizers canceled the outdoor event early Wednesday citing concern over the threat of thunderstorms. Republicans quickly suggested the switch was motivated by worry that the Democrats would not fill the stadium. Democrats rejected the charge, saying that they not only anticipated a full house of 65,000 but had a waiting list of nearly 20,000.
First Published September 6, 2012 12:13 am