Clinton offers unflinching endorsement
CHARLOTTE, N.C.— Bill Clinton, riding a wave of popularity greater now than on the day he became president, put it all on the line for Barack Obama Wednesday night with an endorsement for the ages.
Ending days of speculation over their once-brittle relationship, Clinton cast his lot with President Obama with rule-breaking audacity — all but abandoning his written script and speaking straight from the heart.
Clocking in at an epic 48 minutes — almost double the allotted time — Clinton drove teleprompter operators to distraction, ignoring the text to free-riff his way through a president’s-eye view of why Obama is the obvious choice on Nov. 6
“When we vote in this election, we’ll be deciding what kind of country we want to live in,” Clinton told a jammed arena in Charlotte. “If you want a winner-take-all, you’re-onyour-own society, you should support the Republican ticket.
“But if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-thistogether society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
Clinton rounded on Republicans, reducing the message of last week’s GOP convention in Tampa to a single self-incriminating sentence: “We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.
“I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better,” Clinton said.
“He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”
It was an astonishing performance — one that transformed the night, the convention, perhaps even the race itself.
Clinton drilled down into detail with a folksy candour, making Obama’s case on economic recovery, health care, jobs, debt and the threats that loom over Medicare and Medicaid, the country’s two most expensive and beloved entitlement programs
It all added up to full-throated endorsement likely to be studied for years in political science classes everywhere
Coming on the heels of Michelle Obama’s tear-tinged testimonial Tuesday, it all sets up Obama for a convention-ending finale Thursday. But the former president’s performance introduces a vexing new challenge — how, precisely, does the current president outdo this?
However Obama intends to frame his appeal for a second term, the words won’t come as originally planned.
Early Wednesday, his campaign cited ominous weather projections in shifting from Charlotte’s 74,000seat outdoor football stadium to the 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena, the setting for each of the past two nights. The move will leave tens of thousands of Obama loyalists high, dry and speechless. But it also spares the campaign the embarrassing optics of a stadium-sized appearance that would have begged comparison to four years ago in Denver, when pre-crash America first fell in love with “hope and change.”
Clinton’s remarks in Charlotte crowned a night in which Democrats shifted to a far more aggressive — and socially combative — stance, rolling out dozens of speakers in a carefully co-ordinated repudiation of the Republican agenda under Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
The hit came on all levels, each framing GOP aspirations as throwbacks to an antiquated America where women, Hispanics and working families were — and will again be — left behind
Cecile Richards, whose Planned Parenthood organization would be stripped of federal funding under a Romney administration, warned: “This year women learned that if we aren’t at the table, we’re on the menu.”
She listed Obama’s policies on women’s health. “We will no longer pay more than men for the same health insurance. Thanks to President Obama, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition.”
But none of Wednesday’s culture warriors battled like Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University student who objected to being shut out of congressional testimony on contraception earlier this year, only to be branded a “slut” by arch-conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
Taking a coveted prime-time slot on the convention stage, Fluke warned that America faces a choice in which “extreme, bigoted voices” could hold sway over women, and limit access to abortion, to birth control and to help for domestic violence victims. Or, she said, Americans could stick with a president who, “when he hears a young woman has been verbally attacked, thinks of his daughters — not his delegates or donors — and stands with all women.”
The Charlotte faithful rose to their feet in ovation. Women figured prominently throughout the night — a reflection not only of their greater numbers among Democratic lawmakers but also of the huge premium Team Obama places on female voters
Elizabeth Warren, embroiled in a close race for Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s seat, echoed her plea for economic fairness that became a viral web sensation in 2011. “No Gov. Romney, corporations are not people,” said Warren. “People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick. . . . That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people. And that’s why we need Barack Obama.”
Clinton didn’t deny that times are tough now, but told voters, “I know we’re coming back.” “For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come back,” he said. “We come through every fire a little stronger and a little better. And we do it because in the end we decide to champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honour — the cause of forming a more perfect union. “If that is what you want, if that is what you believe, you must vote and you must re-elect President Barack Obama.”