Bill Clinton Wows ‘Em in Charlotte

It’s hard to judge convention speeches when you’re a partisan yourself, but it sure seems as if Democrats have the better of things this year on the rhetorical front. Yesterday Michelle Obama gave probably the best speech a first lady has given since Eleanor Roosevelt, and tonight Bill Clinton gave one of the best speeches he’s ever given. That’s a pretty high bar.

It went long, of course. It was Bill Clinton, after all. But I’ll bet the viewing audience loved it. And he sure seemed to be having a great time. He went after Republicans about as hard as anyone has done yet, but he did it with a smile and a real sense of joy at being in the arena. Like this:

In Tampa—did y’all watch their convention? I did. In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s reelection was actually pretty simple—pretty snappy. It went something like this: We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.

Later he went after Romney and Ryan on Medicare, making no personal attacks but eviscerating them nonetheless:

Now, there were two other attacks on the president in Tampa I think deserve an answer. First, both Gov. Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the president for allegedly robbing Medicare of $716 billion…Look, here’s what really happened. You be the judge. Here’s what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits at all. None. What the president did was to save money by taking the recommendations of a commission of professionals to cut unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that were not making people healthier and were not necessary to get the providers to provide the service.

…Now, when Congressman Ryan looked into that TV camera and attacked President Obama’s Medicare savings as, quote, the biggest, coldest power play, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry—because that $716 billion is exactly, to the dollar, the same amount of Medicare savings that he has in his own budget. You got to get one thing—it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.

And welfare reform:

Let’s look at the other big charge the Republicans made. It’s a real doozy. They actually have charged and run ads saying that President Obama wants to weaken the work requirements in the welfare reform bill I signed that moved millions of people from welfare to work. Wait, you need to know, here’s what happened. Nobody ever tells you what really happened — here’s what happened.

When some Republican governors asked if they could have waivers to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama administration listened…And the administration agreed to give waivers to those governors and others only if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent, and they could keep the waivers only if they did increase employment. Now, did I make myself clear? The requirement was for more work, not less.

…I am telling you the claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirement is just not true. But they keep on running the ads claiming it. You want to know why? Their campaign pollster said, we are not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers. Now, finally I can say, that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

The whole thing was vintage Clinton. There was plenty of detail in the speech, but it was all delivered with a wink and a chuckle while he stuck in the shiv. Republicans will dutifully attack back, but really, most of them are probably just shaking their heads and wishing they had someone like him in their party.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.