Clinton clinches it - give the man a cigar!
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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