Even before the speech, Clinton won Democrats’ hearts
CHARLOTTE, N.C.— After a dozen years since he left office, Bill Clinton, the 42nd President, is still held in a status by the Democratic Party that can only be called hero worship.
Clinton, in fact, would seem to be more popular among Democrats than the current Democratic president, whose name he will place in nomination for a second term Wednesday night. For sure, they respect Barack Obama, but they love Bill Clinton.
“He’s the best speaker in the party—bar none!” Washington D.C. City Councilman Jack Evans told Human Events as he exited the convention center Tuesday, “and I can’t wait to hear him speak Wednesday!” When we asked if he thought Clinton was a better speaker than Obama, Evans responded, “Obama’s outstanding, but Clinton is first.”
More than his oratorical prowess, the 66-year-old Clinton is honored in his party for returning it to the White House after twelve years and for presiding over a prolonged period of prosperity in the 1990’s. It doesn’t matter that the last Democratic president worked closely with Newt Gingrich and other Republicans they loathe to pass “tough love” welfare reform or that he often embraced GOP economics, such helping pass the largest ever cut in the capital gains tax. His 1998 impeachment on charges of perjury and attempting to interfere with an investigation are never mentioned.
Gray Davis, recalled as governor of California in a 2003 effort and a friend and supporter of Clinton’s since 1992, discussed with Human Events Clinton’s appeal to Democrats and why his speech for Obama is so important.
“For many Americans, Bill Clinton’s blessing is the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ in politics,” said Davis, “He’s an economic validator. It used to be that Democratic presidential candidates and governors of California, were vulnerable on the economy. But not Bill Clinton. If he says ‘America is getting back on track’ Wednesday night, that’s going to be a big boost for Barack Obama.
Recalling how Clinton campaigned for him in his first race for governor in ’98 five days before his testimony in the Monica Lewinsky investigation (“and he acted as though he didn’t have a care in the world,” Gray noted.) and was at his side in the recall race in ’03, Davis voiced hope that Clinton would stump for Obama in key states.
“He understands working Americans and he connects with them. He came from a hard-scrabble background, ate at McDonald’s, and never had suits that fit him until he was president. He’ll help in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan,” Gray said.
Several black Democrats—with whom Clinton had strained relations during wife Hillary’s campaign duel with Obama in ’08—agreed that the last Democratic president would be a tremendous asset on the campaign trail to the current one. State Sen. Hardie Davis of Augusta, Ga., told us that “Clinton could be one of the best assets to President Obama. When he explains to voters how the path Obama is on is the only one and that he’s adding new jobs at a pace unlike the previous administration, they’ll believe him.”
As for any lingering tensions between Clinton and the black community from the ’08 race between his wife and Obama, Davis shook his head vigorously, and said “No, not at all. President Clinton is very popular in the African-American community. And, look, his wife went to work for Obama.”
In contrast to Republicans—who gave a hero’s welcome to both former Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan at conventions after they left the White House—the idea of a Democratic former president revered at his party’s convention is rather alien. Hounded from office in 1968 over the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson never appeared at the ’72 convention. Harry Truman and Jimmy Carter were very unpopular leaving office and received respectful welcomes at conventions of their post-presidency.
As a former president, Bill Clinton is more in the mold of former Republican presidents—a revered figure whose reputation among the party borders on hero-worship. That is why the White House so desperately wanted him as a main speaker in Charlotte, and why Barack Obama—whatver his feelings about the man—wants him on the stump this fall.