Bill Clinton’s whale of a speech, and more ruminations about #DNC2012, Day 2

In the 80s, a young Governor  Bill Clinton gave a speech at a DNC and the biggest  applause line he got was when he said ,”In closing…..”

This week he went over by about 20 minutes and no one would have minded if he took another 200.

Let that be a lesson about political fate and ambition. When you lose or have a bad day, you can come back, and have them all eating out of your hand.

Bill Clinton did that on day 2 of the DNC, making the case for Barack Obama like no other. He brought the Democrats back to a sense of moderation that used to get Clinton and his blue-dog  DLC gang a lot of  grief from “progressives.”

Now when the GOP and the Right have taken on the party of hate and extremism, take-aways and divisiveness,  the Clinton way doesn’t look so conservative.

In fact, when Clinton talked about “constructive cooperation” and admiration for Eisenhower and both Bushes, he expanded the Democrats to the middle right, and it still seemed far left compared to today’s GOP.

In the roll call vote, when Barry Goldwater’s granddaughter spoke for AZ and mentioned how her grandfather wouldn’t recognize the GOP, and she’s right. He wouldn’t. A moderate Republican of old would be right at home with a big broad Democratic Party–the kind Clinton was carving out on Day 2.

If Day 1 was about America’s diversity and Democratic family values,  Day 2 was about expanding the definition of inclusion to encompass the broad middle for all:  Not just minorities and Hispanics, but whites, working class,  capitalists, women, all who believe in liberty and justice for all.

No one else could have pulled it off  but Bill Clinton.

At first, Day 2 of the DNC seemed a bit dull. There was a slow build throughout the night, with platitudes rarely getting a rise.

It certainly was no Day 1, which was perhaps the most energizing and inspirational of all the conventions (RNC/DNC) because of Michelle Obama, Julian Castro, and the overwhelming diversity on display. (What? We didn’t see that at the RNC? Well, no, we didn’t).

Day 2 had moments: The preach speak of Emmanuel Cleaver, Cecile Richards, Cristina’s Si Se Puede reprise, Jessica Sanchez doing Aretha, Sandra Fluke, Elizabeth Warren. Conventions are a politics junkie’s “America’s Got Talent.”  But Wednesday just wasn’t the kind of sustained level of UP, that Day 1 was.
You could take a bathroom break on Day 2.

And then….the Whale showed up.

And that was it,  the water shifted and rose up, and the show began.

(Miss the speech? CSPAN has it here.)

What I liked most about Clinton’s speech is that he did something Obama and the Dems have really failed to do heretofore. No one has really spelled out why the Democrats are worth voting for.

If it’s all about a job creation score card, Clinton provided one: In the last 50 years, it’s Republicans 24 million. Democrats 42 million.

When it comes down to who has a better plan for tomorrow, Clinton had a one word test that the GOP’s plan can’t pass: Arithmetic.

When he talked about the GOP cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, he made the emotional sale. When Clinton asked what families cut off by the GOP plan were going to do, he struck a nerve.

“We can’t afford to give the reigns of government to someone who wants to double down on trickle down.”

Clinton was good on the record, but he also represented a time when Democrats had a good thing going. For those nostalgic of a stimulus that worked, of a country with a surplus, of good times, (the Clinton Days),  Clinton was clear.  No president  could have fixed what was left for Barack Obama in just four years.

Which leads to the ridiculous GOP argument, which Clinton said, was “pretty simple. We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.”

The undecideds back home on the couch, could sense the truth in that.

But to close the deal, Clinton needed to sell a vision that people could wrap their heads around and see the critical nature of the choice before them.

“What kind of country do you want to live in?” he asked. “If you want a “you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all-society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility–a we’re-all-in-this-together society– you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”

Some are saying Bill Clinton’s  was his best speech ever. It was just Clinton, relaxed, confident, with just enough facts to make his point in his folksy style that evokes the elder, the veteran of life, one who knows.

I’d say a speech’s impact has to do with the moment. I was on the floor of the DNC in New York in 1992 and I recall the Clinton acceptance speech to be his finest. After years of Republican governance, Clinton represented real hope, and people were eager for it. ( I just saw bits of it. You’ll find the DNA of last night’s speech in 1992’s).

This time around we are also  at a crossroads, a critical one as well. But Clinton is more loved and revered. He didn’t have to do any heavy lifting this week really.  That’s still Barack Obama’s job.  And we’ll see how he does on Day 3.


I thought it was a rough night for all the Asian Americans on the podium except for Jessica Sanchez who nailed her Aretha cover. And she was 2nd on “American Idol.”

Rep. Judy Chu was fired up, but she could use a little bit of Michelle Obama’s fire. Sec.Shinseki was a general giving a political speech. I saluted, sir.

The image was one of good Asian American public servants. Not one of charismatic political leader.

Atty.General Kamala Harris (half-South Asian)  is always alluring, but seemed nervous up there and did not leave one thinking, “There’s our next Senator.”  She might be. Her placement on the program indicates she is far being in some political dead-end job. She’ll probably remember her moment her as Clinton remembers his moment in the ‘80s. A better day is ahead. She has the look of a real national political star when she finds her Michelle Obama chops.

Asian Americans looking for charismatic leaders? Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and Rep. Maisie Hirono (running for Akaka’s Senate seat vs. ex-gov Linda Lingle) are two who come to mind. I’ve interviewed both. You want someone as Clinton would say, “cool on the outside, who burns for America on the inside”?  These ladies are tough ladies who don’t back down.