CHARLOTTE — After former President Bill Clinton waxed lyrical about President Barack Obama’s time in office so far, the two shared a warm embrace on stage at the Democratic National Convention amid riotous cheers of approval from the crowd.
Clinton spent 48 minutes outlining exactly how Obama’s policies trump those of Romney and the Republican Party platform in his address Wednesday night. He covered many of this election cycle’s most contentious talking points—job creation, national debt, Obamacare and welfare reform—and chastised Republicans, claiming that they have been unwilling to compromise across party lines. With nearly the entirety of Time Warner Cable Arena on its feet, Clinton maintained his familiar charisma while ad-libbing and going off script to interact with the crowd several times.
“President Obama’s approach embodies the values, the ideas and the direction America must take to build a 21st century vision of the American Dream in a nation of shared opportunities, shared prosperity and shared responsibilities,” he said.
But the relationship between Clinton and Obama—and their ideologies—has not always been so peachy.
Both men have been publicly at odds with the other, most notably during the 2008 presidential election. Through the Democratic primary, which pitted Obama against Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, harsh words were exchanged as Obama accused Bill Clinton of utilizing dishonest and “troubling” campaign tactics while Bill Clinton called Obama’s campaign platform a mere “fairy tale.”
Eight years prior to the primary battle filled with barbs, Clinton worked to defeat Obama in a 2000 Illinois congressional race. Obama was running against Democratic incumbent Bobby Rush in the primary, and Clinton endorsed Rush a week before the election took place, ushering in a loss for Obama.
But Clinton put history and differences aside—even poking fun at Obama’s appointment of his wife—as he took the stage the night before Obama will accept his nomination, usurping a position that is typically filled by the vice presidential nominee. With his enduring popularity among the American public, he may be just the strong arm that Obama and Democrats need to achieve the sought after “convention bump” in pre-election polls.
Clinton and first lady Michelle Obama, who spoke Tuesday night, are Democratic faces that are well-liked by the public—they earned a 69 percent and she a 65 percent approval rating, respectively, in a Sept. 5 USA Today/Gallup poll. Both nights, the DNC crowd reflected this support, receiving both Clinton’s and Michelle Obama’s speeches with great praise.
If Americans trust in Clinton, as the polls suggest, he may have aided Democrats with his address, as he not only backed up pro-Obama rhetoric with facts on the empirical benefits of many of Obama’s policies, but also worked to discredit much of the Republican discussion from last week’s Republican National Convention.
“In Tampa, we heard a lot of talk about how the president and Democrats don’t believe in free enterprise and individual initiative,” he said. “Well since 1961, Republicans have held the White House for 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private-sector jobs. What’s the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million.”
Clinton cited other statistics to explain how Obama would better serve the American people on not only job creation, but on working to balance the federal budget, achieved by Clinton and a Republican-controlled Congress during his presidency.
“Obama has offered a plan with $4 trillion in debt reduction over a decade, with two and a half dollars of spending reduction for every one dollar or revenue increases, and tight controls on future spending,” Clinton noted. “It’s the kind of balanced approach proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles committee.”
Clinton also addressed the GOP’s relentless attacks on Obamacare. He said Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s vision for Medicare and Medicaid neglects those in the greatest need.
The GOP ticket’s plan for these programs would show Americans the end of modern Medicare by 2016, he added, because the plan would bolster insurance companies while asking seniors to pay more for medication and shorten the life of the Medicare trust fund by eight years.
“But it gets worse—[Romney and Paul Ryan] want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming decade,” Clinton said. “Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care... and on people with disabilities, including kids from middle class families with special needs like Down’s syndrome and autism. I don’t know how those families would deal with it. We can’t let that happen.”
To conclude his speech, Clinton put his full support behind Obama and his vision—an America that prospers as a “we’re all in this together” society, Clinton said.
“If that’s what you believe—if that’s what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama,” he said.