The Clinton factor
Bill Clinton’s most obvious mistake was rambling on far too long in his speech at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night. The energy he built up during the early parts of the speech palpably drained away during its third and fourth hours. That probably won’t dilute the effectiveness of the speech too much in the long run; its primary purpose was to give Party faithful something to feel good about, and in the coming weeks, if they think about Clinton at all, they’ll mostly remember that he made them feel good.
The secondary purpose of the Clinton speech was to make the media fall in love with him all over again, and that seems to have worked pretty well, too. The press is trying to drag Obama over the finish line in the 2012 election, but that’s not quite the same as the intense devotion and sacrifice of journalistic principle they displayed to close ranks around Bill Clinton and keep him in office during the Lewinsky affair. The media helps Obama a lot, mostly by ignoring damaging stories like Fast and Furious, but they were Clinton’s Praetorian guard. Ask any of the ladies who spoke up about Bill Clinton’s abuse what a “War on Women” really feels like.
The press gushing over Clinton with renewed praise for his dazzling oratorical skills will help to eclipse a horrible night at the DNC – which began with delegates hooting in anger as God and Jerusalem were returned to the Democrat Party platform against their will, ran through a series of whiny and undistinguished speakers, and ran aground on the rocks of Elizabeth Warren’s tedious class-warfare speech. It was grimly amusing to watch a woman most famous for lying about her ancestry to take advantage of race-based programs insist that businesses are thieving predators, unless sanctified by “partnership” with Big Government liberals. “Oil companies guzzle down billions in subsidies,” Warren shrieked. Unlike solar panel companies, right, Liz? And if Barack Obama is our only hope against rapacious investment bandits, when’s he going after Jon Corzine?
But Clinton lifted the evening out of its sad and pathetic doldrums, and gave the press an opening to write about excitement and energy. That’s no small feat, even if Clinton had to pump out an astonishing number of lies per minute to do it. It’s funny that on the very day he took the stage to lie in defense of Barack Obama’s gutting of welfare reform, the Government Accountability Office validated Mitt Romney’s criticisms. Bill is your fantasy president; nothing actually happening in the world outside your window matters as much as his spellbinding stories.
Likewise, Obama’s huge Medicare cuts weren’t really “cuts” in Clinton’s mind; they’re some sort of highly aggressive discount program that will strengthen Medicare, by stripping out its funding and making doctors even less eager to accept it. Seniors are supposed to be happy that Obama diverted the money they’ve paid into the system all their lives into aspects of ObamaCare that have nothing to do with them.
Clinton, a pioneer in the 90s of using the Orwellian formulation of “contributions” to describe tax increases, recast Obama’s job-killing, regulation-crazed policies as… cooperation. “I want a man with no doubt that we can build a new American dream economy, driven by innovation and creativity, by education… and, yes, by cooperation,” Clinton declared. Hopefully the Pennsylvania coal industry will “cooperate” with Obama by ceasing to exist without further complaint. And you really don’t want to know what happens if you choose not to “cooperate” with ObamaCare.
The famously thin-skinned and divisive Obama, who yawned and said Greeks think Greece is exceptional too when asked if he believed in American exceptionalism, was magically transformed under Clinton’s rhetoric into “a man who’s cool on the outside, but who burns for America on the inside.” (You don’t suppose Slick Willie has noticed the long lines at the box office for 2016: Obama’s America, do you?) As if Obama’s hideous record in office is excused by his fiery burning core – a more poetic variation on Michelle Obama’s Tuesday night plea to ignore her husband’s failures and give him another chance because he tried really hard, and cares so very much.
Speaking of which, Clinton did Obama no favors by going off-script and getting the crowd to shout “Yes!” to the question of whether or not they were better off now than four years ago. The whole thrust of the Obama campaign is that only a crazy person would say that, but it doesn’t matter, because Bush. The Romney campaign can slap a few grim economic statistics on top of Clinton’s call-and-response and cut a quick campaign commercial, if they feel he’s worth responding to.
Clinton was frantic about the need to polish up his “legacy” after he left office in a shower of crass behavior, pardons for sale, and a sickened electorate realizing that contrary to what Clinton’s defenders insisted, character really does matter. He was very successful in that effort, thanks to invaluable assistance from a friendly media. He’s now remembered as a brilliant bipartisan centrist technocrat. Why, you’d almost think he didn’t benefit from capital gains tax cuts he opposed! (He accepted them reluctantly as part of “horse trading” to get a budget deal in 1996.) You could almost forget that Clinton’s economy rode on a tech bubble that did horrendous damage when it burst.
Listening to him ramble on stage Wednesday night about the impossible challenge of cleaning up after George Bush, you could almost forget the Bill Clinton left Bush a recession, too – which Bush addressed without Obama’s endless whining and sniveling, in addition to coping with a devastating terrorist attack that inflicted a trillion dollars of economic damage. And if you try discussing Bill Clinton’s role in setting the stage for that… well, all the folksy storytelling and slick charm disappears real damn quick. If you try making a movie about it, your film will end up buried in a warehouse by “top men,” right next to the Ark of the Covenant.
Clinton was the latest in a parade of DNC speakers who insisted that Bush left Obama with an impossible situation, and remains more responsible for today’s ghastly unemployment and economic decline than the sitting President. But none of them ever get around to saying exactly what Bush did wrong. That’s curious, isn’t it? Dozens of hours of bloviating about the horrors of the Bush recession, and not a single specific complaint. Obama’s particular failures are easily, and consistently, listed by his critics: hyper-regulation, the crushing burden of mandates like ObamaCare, small business confidence shaken by his command economics and class war rhetoric, the looming menace of massive tax increases, choking off American energy production, and reckless spending that has driven us to the brink of market-destroying insolvency. But what were Bush’s errors?
Unlike the other DNC speakers, Bill Clinton did offer one specific complaint: he criticized Bush’s deficit spending. “Don’t you ever forget,” he exhorted the audience, “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.”
And then Obama tripled it in three years. That’s the reason you don’t hear specific critiques of Bush’s mistakes from Democrats: they’re all things Obama did worse. Clinton did Obama no favors by breaking the code of silence.
There was nothing to appeal to genuine independents in Clinton’s speech – it was all cheerleading, red meat, and reality revisions for the Party faithful. After a night in which other speakers accused Romney and Ryan of wanting to leave women to die in hospital rooms, Clinton said Republicans are racists who want to keep minorities from voting by cruelly requiring them to show photo ID. (You know, the same kind of ID they had to produce in order to hear Clinton speak.) Clinton was as ugly, brutish, and foolish as the rest of the DNC speakers. He made his Party look pitiful, ignoring today’s unpleasant reality to dwell among poorly-remembered “glories” from a dozen years ago. He’s nowhere near good enough of a “storyteller” to convince anyone but Party dead-enders to ignore tomorrow’s headlines.
Maybe Clinton’s deficiencies were intentional – subtle jabs at a man he really doesn’t like, but was called upon to rescue. Rambling on halfway to midnight kept Obama cooling his heels backstage for twenty minutes – a few camera shots captured Michelle Obama with a distinctly unhappy expression on her face. Throwing out an epic stemwinder gives Obama a tough act to follow. And Clinton capped off his performance by greeting Obama on stage with a deep bow from the waist – a reminder of a famed Obama gaffe, when he bowed in similar fashion to the Saudi king.
The Democrat convention is a Chevy Volt covered with hate slogans, plus one ostentatious “COEXIST” bumper sticker. Bill Clinton was nothing but a charging station, good enough to keep the thing rolling for a little bit longer. He looked like he was enjoying himself up on stage. America is bone-weary of Democrats enjoying themselves at our expense.