President Clinton came just five minutes shy of the length of his 1992 nomination speech in a gift tonight to President Obama: an endorsement speech that hit on every embattled topic from ObamaCare and “shared prosperity” to voter ID and the DREAM Act.
“We’re here to nominate a president, and I’ve got one in mind,” Clinton said. “I want to nominate a man whose own life has known its fair share of adversity and uncertainty. …I want a man who believes with no doubt that we can build a new American dream economy, driven by innovation and creativity, by education and, yes, by cooperation. And by the way, after last night, I want a man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.”
“I want Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States and I proudly nominate him as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party,” he said, kicking off his remarks.
Obama came out on stage after the 48-minute address — the third-longest in Clinton’s seven Democratic National Conventions — for a stiff hug and to pose for the cameras together. The state roll call then began to formally nominate Obama for a second term.
But the night belonged to the two-term president from Arkansas.
Clinton touted the “job score” for the two parties in administrations since 1961 as “Republicans: twenty-four million; Democrats: forty-two.” New unemployment numbers will be released by the Labor Department the morning after Obama’s acceptance speech.
“There’s a reason for this,” he said. “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics. Why? Because poverty, discrimination, and ignorance restrict growth.”
Clinton lamented what he saw as the deteriorating political tone in this country. “Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats,” he said, adding praise for presidents Eisenhower, Reagan, and both Bushes. “I have to be grateful — and you should be, too — that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.”
“When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good, but what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation,” the former president added.
“Why does cooperation work better than constant conflict? Because nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day.”
Though not referencing the senator (or Tea Party) by name, Clinton used Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) as an example of the direction of “the faction that now dominates the Republican Party.”
“They beat a Republican congressman with almost 100 percent voting record on every conservative score because he said he realized he did not have to hate the president to disagree with him,” he said. “Boy, that was a non-starter, and they threw him out.”
Clinton said that the Republican National Convention “looked good, they sounded good. They convinced me that they all love their families and their children, and we’re grateful they’ve been born in America, and all — really, I’m not being — they did.”
He impressed upon the audience that he trusts Republicans as “honorable” to their commitments, but “in order to look like an acceptable, reasonable, moderate alternative to President Obama” the Tampa convention didn’t elaborate much on those plans.
But he said the challenge that Democrats face is that “a lot of Americans are still angry and frustrated about this economy.”
“But too many people do not feel it yet. I had this same thing happen in 1994 and early ’95,” Clinton said. “We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing, but most people didn’t feel it yet. Thankfully, by 1996, the economy was roaring, everybody felt it, and we were halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in the history of the United States.”
“The difference this time is purely in the circumstances. President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now. No president, no president — not me, not any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”