Bill Clinton - the Big Dog - took to the stage at the Democrat convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, today and gave an unashamed display of conducting a crowd like a perfectly pitched cathedral choir.

It was almost a religious experience for the Democrats desperate for some sign from above that Barack Obama would defy a sick economy and trashed expectations to regain the presidency.

They looked up and there was Bill, 42nd president from 1993-2001, a man who is no saint, but whose confidence is always heading heavenwards and who can take people with him.

There have been some captivating speeches so far in this convention season—Ann Romney at the Republican gathering in Tampa, Florida; Michelle Obama at the Democrats’ yesterday.

Mr Clinton’s was something more.

Note to the reader: Clinton prepared speech had 3136 words. The speech he delivered had 5895.

He was formally nominating Mr Obama as the party’s presidential candidate. Unofficially, he gave a 50 minute demonstration of how the science of politics can be rendered as a series of simple and descriptive equations without the loss of integrity or effect.

There were no simplistic chants masquerading as policy, no weary slogans, no tacky shots at opponents. If any current Australian leader could do as well they have declined to reveal their talent.

It was stunning to watch and hear, from Mr Clinton’s carefully weighted cadences which could both cut through a crowd’s roar and when needed drop to the softness of a dinner table conversation, to the ever-present, strangely bent left index finger which jabbed each point home or beckoned listeners to heed more carefully.

Barak Obama was ``cool on the outside, but he burns for America on the inside’’ was one line.

But as well as good lines there were facts upon facts, which that new species of political commentator, the fact checker, already will be scrambling over. More important, there was a political and policy argument for the return of the Obama administration.

From the mouth of someone else they might have been a string of excuses; from Bill Clinton it was a steel rope cutting off all doubt about Mr Obama’s second-term entitlement.

There was even self-effacement of a sort: Not even he could have solved America’s economic woes in three and a half years.

It wasn’t a John F Kennedy appeal to a national higher interest. It was a political drum thumper, as was required for the occasion. And what a drummer.

Without a doubt the energy was really about Bill Clinton and a teensy bit about Barak Obama. He was the lead singer of a heritage band back to show he could still rock the room. And, as the saying goes, there wasn’t a dry seat in the house by the time he had finished.

That conclusion took a long time to arrive. Bill Clinton had done a lot of preparation and was having fun. On several occasions ignored his prepared text to fly elsewhere as the moment demanded, exasperating the teleprompter operators.

One can imagine the gathering impatience of Barak Obama waiting back stage to appear with Bill Clinton when the self-nominated encores had ended.

The American voters will decide in November whether Mr Obama gets a second term or Mitt Romney is installed in the White House. And the Clinton speech might not figure anywhere in the result.

President Obama’s convention speech tomorrow could be much more important.

But as a lesson that what many politicians consider a craft can be made an artform, the Clinton speech will prevail against rivals.

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36 comments

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    • Peter says:

      03:44pm | 06/09/12

      Democrats such as Clinton are still lauded by the faithful despite his many serious flaws, not the least is being a deceitful liar. Nevertheless all is forgiven by the gullible looking for an inspired speech. Democrats in the US and Labor Party people in Australia both fall for the impressive rhetoric but never look at the practicalities, underlying logic or the results.

    • Rebecca says:

      04:14pm | 06/09/12

      Yawn.

    • Mr. Jordon says:

      05:45pm | 06/09/12

      Name one position that Romney hasn’t flip flopped on?

      Gingrich called Romney a liar during the debates. Tell us who is the liar Gingrich or Ronmey?

      I notice that Ryan last week complained about Obama not supporting a particular scheme but fail to point out that he voted against said scheme.

    • Levi of Bris says:

      06:04pm | 06/09/12

      And Rebecca sums it up nicely. Feigns disinterest when confronted by reality. The left, always making decisions with their heart never with their head

    • Jimi says:

      06:29pm | 06/09/12

      Well said Levi. People making the effort to post pretending they don’t care is a sure sign the truth hurts!

    • Peter says:

      06:31pm | 06/09/12

      True politicians flip flop but do you remember the line “I did not have sex with that woman”?

    • Don says:

      06:50pm | 06/09/12

      Obama had to get Clinton out, I mean he can hardly run on his record yeah? However as he pointed said to the Russian president:

      “This is my last election,” Mr. Obama said. “After my election, I have more flexibility.”

      Something to look forward to then. More of the same, just better no doubt.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      03:47pm | 06/09/12

      If we follow America in everything…........Why cant we have an election in November…...Pllleeeaaase

    • Babylon says:

      03:49pm | 06/09/12

      the Obama administration is like an Australian Labor term in the Lodge.

      You know, loads of reckless spending, nothing delivered, convictions changed a the puff of a wind gust of counter opinion.

      Aimless you know.

      Obama and his wife are easier on the eye than Gillard and Swan of course.

    • Mr. Jordon says:

      05:54pm | 06/09/12

      Reagan and Bush sr. increase US debt from under $1 trillion to $4 trillion. Plus Reagan raised the US debt ceiling 16 times.

      Clinton increased US debt from $4 trillion to $5 trillion.

      Bush jr. Increased US debt from $5 trillion to $8-9 trillion.

      As Clinton said on one President can fix the mess Bush left in just 4 years.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      03:56pm | 06/09/12

      Finally an article without any mention of Abbott by Mr Farr…...... smile

    • Brad says:

      05:30pm | 06/09/12

      Agree with pa_kelvin… Finally!

      Obama’s ‘coolness’ is fake. Clint Eastwood invented cool.

    • Mr. Jordon says:

      05:57pm | 06/09/12

      @Brad

      I think Elvis and James Dean might have something to say about that.

    • John says:

      05:57pm | 06/09/12

      @kelvin   Can’t you read?

      “There were no simplistic chants masquerading as policy, no weary slogans, no tacky shots at opponents. If any current Australian leader could do as well they have declined to reveal their talent.”

    • St. Michael says:

      03:56pm | 06/09/12

      “Barak Obama was ``cool on the outside, but he burns for America on the inside’’ was one line.”

      Unfortunately, most Americans derogatively call that approach “Never let ‘em see you sweat.”  As in, unflappable on the outside in order to avoid revealing panic and feeling completely at a loss because you’re out of your depth.  It’s also called “dishonest”, which is something Clinton can also give masterclasses in.

    • AdamC says:

      04:01pm | 06/09/12

      I have not seen Clinton’s speech, so cannot comment on it. However, one suspects Farr would have written a similar gush piece had the former President simply belched at the audience, scratched himself and collapsed in a drunken heap.

      Ultimately, it is not their respective conventioneers whom the two Presidential candidates have to convince. Obama’s main problem is that he has over-promised and under-delivered. At the same time, while many Republican voters may not be avowed Romney fans, they are all collectively chomping at the metaphorical bit to turn Obama into a one-term President.

      On the other hand, Obama hasn’t been that bad. He has played the crummy hand he was dealt. But he will need more than the endorsement of a former President from the long-gone, boom-time nineties to convince middle America that he is not yesterday’s man.

    • simonfromLakemba says:

      04:30pm | 06/09/12

      He’s actually done pretty well. His problem was the same as Rudd’s, offered the world so he had a lot of stuff the Republicans could pin on him.

      You know he has done pretty well when defence or the war has barely been mentioned.

      Agree with what you have written.

    • JoniM says:

      04:49pm | 06/09/12

      Spot on AdamC !

      Who would have thought an over hyped ex Democrat President would have gone down so well at an over hyped Democrat Convention trying to promote an over hyped and failing current Democrat President?

    • Bob Real says:

      05:20pm | 06/09/12

      @Simon - Rudd’s problem was the backstabbers in his own party.

    • Martin H says:

      07:39pm | 06/09/12

      I hope Romney romps it in…watching the USA slide further into economic trouble will be fun to watch. They already have an unserviceable debt, it will take more than Romney to pull them out of the mess they are in, they need a miracle, perhaps being the god lovers they are, a miracle might appear, but I very much doubt it.

    • Brenda's sister says:

      04:12pm | 06/09/12

      Yes give him a cigar. Clinton/cigar in the same sentence is a timely reminder of his philandering past and the embarrassment he disgracefully showered on the two most important women in his life.  “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” 

      Creep.

    • Anubis says:

      04:30pm | 06/09/12

      Hmmm - “new species of political commentator, the fact checker”  That may improve the level of journalism in America. It might even be a good idea to have a few of them in Australia, it might improve the quality of journalism, particularly political commentary. Maybe if a few facts were checked before publishing we might some reality in the Australian political landscape - less Julia is great and more WTF are those clowns in Canberra up to. Both contenders for the big seat in Australia need to be put under the microscope between now and the next election and I am pretty certain that they will both be found lacking. What Australia needs is a valid new party that can get us out of the rot of swapping one lot of clowns with the other lot of clowns as a monotonous regularity. Our current choices of a female Ronald McDonald or Noddy are no choices at all.

      Neither the current leaders nor their respective bunches of sycophants and suckholes deserve to be anywhere near the keys of power.

    • Samuel says:

      04:35pm | 06/09/12

      It’s Barack not Barak

    • Andrew says:

      04:38pm | 06/09/12

      I liked Clinton, and i am a fan of Obama as well. Obama really got dealt a bad hand and he was probably on a hiding to nothing so it is not surprising that he is in for a close race.

      It would be hard being a center-left party in America anyway as there is a deep conservativeness amongst a lot of the country it appears and they have done a good job in making the word “liberal” almost an insult to the point that “liberals” need to almost deny they are and talk up their conservative roots (same seems to be happening here and Rudd did a lot of it although i don’t think we believed it at all, and we know that deep down Gillard supports gay marriage). I remember seeing an ad in California where a potential candidate to some election was talking up his credentials as a free-market capitalist, i thought to myself, what has that got to do with anything.

      I think one thing that the democrats do far better than the republicans is coming across as human beings. Not that that is neccessary a good thing as the one time the republicans did this better than the democrats we got George Bush (Al Gore is a human isn’t he?)

    • Tommy says:

      04:38pm | 06/09/12

      “Clinton clinches it - give the man a cigar!”

      Democrat Party media release? No, just another article by Malcolm Farr…

    • Brenda's sister says:

      05:08pm | 06/09/12

      Bad idea to headline “cigar” and “Clinton” in the same sentence.  By his actions during his time in the White House, this man publicly humiliated the two most important females in his life.  What a creep.

      You can punish a thief, you can lock up murderers and rapists.

      But there’s nothing you can do to protect the innocent from a liar.

      Even worse is someone who achieves high office courtesy of a lie.

    • pa_kelvin says:

      06:13pm | 06/09/12

      It wasn’t the actual cigar,it was the eight inch tube it comes in…....Everybody knows you only dip your cigar in Port to flavour it…. smile

    • CaptainCrunch says:

      05:21pm | 06/09/12

      “There were no simplistic chants masquerading as policy, no weary slogans, no tacky shots at opponents.”

      How about “We can’t afford to double down on trickle down”?

      Anyway it was a phenomenal performance, except for the many moments of stuttering and rhetoric while he thought of ways to extend the speech on the fly. I wouldn’t accuse the former President of trying to upstage “The Wan”, because that would be slanderous.  What?

      Kinda looked like he was really campaigning for a Clinton Presidential nomination for 2016. He certainly has a better record than The Ocean Smalliniser. Hilary will be pleased.

      Did anyone see the vote for the “God” inclusion? Funny stuff.

      Romney looks like a President in a movie. He also seems to have had every position known to man on every subject. He has been pro choice, now pro life. Etc blah blah.

      He campaigns as a conservative but definitely is not. His policies while Governor of Massachusetts indicate this. But then again that is Massachusetts. During the Primaries he screamed to a crowd that he was an “EXTREME CONSERVATIVE”. When in history has a conservative called themselves extreme? 

      The conferences have been a contest of who had the hardest upbringing and struggle. Everyone loves America and everyone in it. But one side wants to change that and one wants to be rich.

      Pick a side.

      As an Aussie in the US I make this analogy. It is a bit like Family First/One Nation vs The Greens/Labor Left and they are fighting over the middle class. Like two walruses fighting over a grape.

      But I just want Obama to lose. Just to see Chris Matthews’ head blow up on MSNBC (figuratively speaking).

    • Mr. Tiny says:

      06:32pm | 06/09/12

      I liked the speech, its been a long time since a politician has kept me interested for so long. I watched Mrs Obama’s speech the other day and the Republic ones last week and Clintons was my favorite so far.

    • Mr.Tiny says:

      06:37pm | 06/09/12

      My favorite bit of the speech was when he talked about not hating the other side and how by working together is how things get done. I hope our politicians were listening to that bit.

    • Richard says:

      06:48pm | 06/09/12

      This upcoming US election is not going to be decided by oratory or grand vision or smears or anything like that, the only influential factor in the this upcoming election is the news on Tuesday that the US sovereign debt has breached $16 Billion. Simply put, this serious problem can no longer be ignored. This too late to even solve this problem at all, but the damage must be mitigated and the budget must be balanced.

      Now, I have neither the Democrats or the Republicans have covered themselves in glory on this issue, but one thing is clear: Romney couldn’t be worse. The modern left, unlike Bill Clinton who ran surpluses, seem absolutely dead-set opposed to any notion of fiscal responsibility and budgetary restraint. It is shameful the way the left and the unions in Queens land are carrying on over Campbell New man’s attempts to reign in public spending and be fiscally responsible. Yeah, no shit austerity is tough, but if we don’t swallow the bitter medicine now, we’ll regret it a lot more down the track, of which the American experience is a haunting, horrible harbinger.

    • Martin H says:

      07:44pm | 06/09/12

      Trillion Richard.

      They’ve past the point of no return, the once mighty USA empire is no more.

    • Swamp Thing says:

      07:08pm | 06/09/12

      Big dog my arse…...

    • Henk says:

      07:31pm | 06/09/12

      If O had lived up to the hype he’d make Jesus look insignificant. How you clowns can still be fans of the party that gave the world GWB says more about you than us sane people.

    • Sancho says:

      07:36pm | 06/09/12

      Supporters of the party that’s trying to pretend the last Republican president never existed are surely in a position to criticise Bill Clinton.

 

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