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.”
The former president vowed “if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it.”
“Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election,” he said. “I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.”
He proceeded to give nudges to Obama’s pet projects of clean energy and student loan reform.
“When Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, ‘the biggest, coldest power play,’ I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because that $716 billion is exactly to the dollar the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget,” Clinton said. “You got to give one thing: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”
He called the Republicans’ charge that Obama has weakened the welfare reform enacted in the 1990s “a real doozy.”
“Nobody ever tells you what really happened. Here’s what happened. When some Republican governors asked if they could have waivers to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama administration listened, because we all know it’s hard for even people with good work histories to get jobs today, so moving folks from welfare to work is a real challenge,” Clinton said. “And the administration agreed to give waivers to those governors and others only if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent and they could keep the waivers only if they did increase employment. Now, did — did I make myself clear? The requirement was for more work, not less.”
On deficit reduction: “People ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.”
“Don’t you ever forget, when you hear them talking about this, that Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office, in the 12 years before I took office, and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left, because it defied arithmetic,” he said. “It was a highly inconvenient thing for them in our debates that I was just a country boy from Arkansas and I came from a place where people still thought two and two was four.”
Clinton reminded the audience that America comes “through every fire a little stronger and a little better.”
“If you want a winner-take- all, you’re-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket,” he said. “But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility, a we’re-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
“If you want every American to vote and you think it is wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority, and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama. If you think the president was right to open the doors of American opportunity to all those young immigrants brought here when they were young so they can serve in the military or go to college, you must vote for Barack Obama.”
Clinton said the country’s demise has been predicted “ever since George Washington was criticized for being a mediocre surveyor with a bad set of wooden, false teeth.”
“And so far every single person that’s bet against America has lost money, because we always come back,” he said.