Master tactician does Obama a favour

Former President Bill Clinton waves to the Democratic convention on Charlotte (6 Sept 2012)

Bill Clinton proved, yet again, that he is one of a kind.

His lengthy speech wasn't off message but it wasn't on the same message as everybody else at this convention.

He wasn't there to scare. He defended President Barack Obama's record and values with stirring rhetoric and impassioned pleading.

That's what you would expect when a senior statesman is called on to come to the aid of a man he doesn't much like.

But this speech stood out for being entirely different from anything else I have heard on the campaign trail, from either side.

Jazz musician

Few politicians have the charisma to hold a crowd rapt while delivering a lecture packed with so many facts and figures that they flew past in a blur.

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It took some schmoozing by the president to get Bill Clinton on stage and on board”

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You couldn't really follow unless you were taking notes. Indeed even those of us who were taking notes would have to go back and carefully think about them while sucking on a pen.

Fact-checking has become something of a fad in this election, although a very worthwhile one, and I suspect Mr Clinton has given them enough material to work through several nights.

The former president can appear undisciplined, and he is, although those who appreciate the style might liken it to a jazz musician riffing on a favourite tune.

But he is also a master tactician, meticulous in his study of elections and how they are fought.

A speech that is so different from the run-of-the-mill has purpose.

In the past couple of weeks we have had no end of personal testimonies, varying in tone from the mawkish to the moving.

But we have not before had a detailed, wonky explanation of Mr Obama's claimed successes in healthcare, employment, energy, on the debt and the deficit.

Certainly not from the president himself.

No bromance

Of course, all the data doesn't mean Mr Clinton is right. But it sounds as if he is standing back and making a rational judgment.

President Obama embraces former President Bill Clinton in Charlotte (6 Sept 2012) President Obama gave Bill Clinton a "brief awkward hug" after his speech

Mr Clinton is not naive, and can't hope the average TV viewer will follow his argument. But the solidity of the weight of figures seems convincing.

Afterwards Mr Obama came on and gave Mr Clinton a brief awkward hug, then rather trailed behind him, reaching out to pat his back just as the former president moved away. It is no bromance.

It took some schmoozing by the president to get Bill Clinton on stage and on board.

Mr Clinton was still stinging from the wounds of the 2008 campaign, long after his wife appeared to have moved on. The two men's journey is detailed in a rather good New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza.

But, as the biographer of both men, David Maraniss, remarks, Clinton "loves to be needed as much as he needs to be loved".

Others speculate there may be a more solid payback in time, ending with his wife in the White House.

"What a wild twist. Instead of ushering in the post-Clinton era, as intended, Obama has ushered in the pre-Clinton era," says Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.

For now, Bill Clinton has done Mr Obama a big favour. But he has also set certain standards. When the president speaks tonight perhaps he will have some facts and figures at hand too.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    234 Ridiculous. I don't like Israel. But my step mother was a Jew, I have a friend that is too. I've also known many Muslims and many from other religions. The irony: Muslims from Pakistan/Arab were the most respectful of the lot. They were my next door neighbour, invited us in, and they got over a fear of dogs to come into my place (we had a 110lb dog of pure muscle and bone!). They hid nothing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    I wish it was Clinton running for office and not Obama! I voted for Obama in '08 and am ashamed to say I even had his bumper sticker. Clinton was a true leader and knew how to bring everyone together at the table. Obama has been a disaster. He is not a true leader and is really "the great divider". I'm not a fan for Romney, but at this point I would honestly take Bush over Obama

  • Comment number 241.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    167. LucyJ Under Romney, Mass had the highest debt per person ratio in the country -- is that what you call creating a surplus?

    177. Chryses You failed to notice Clinton isn't running for President, Obama is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    162. LucyJ " also think deep down Clinton knows that Romney would do more..." Oh yes, I am sure you have developed this idea through your many conversations with and perceptive daily observation of President Clinton's habits of mind. LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    117. Suilerua Unfortunately the banks were too big to fail, unless you would have preferred another Great Depression, like a tea party member I knew would have preferred. You also need to remember TARP was passed by Congress under the Bush administration and the Democrats were the ones who put in what accountability there was into the bill. The Republicans would have had none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    113. Suilerua " that deregulated the finance industry repealing Glass Steagall." That was because certain economists who were high paid 'consultants' for Wall Street argued for it and held positions of trust in the government. How else do you think university professors become multimillionaires?

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    102. powermeerkat More illegal aliens have been deported during the Obama administration than the Bush. Bush crashed the economy -- Obama kept us from having another Great Depression with the stimulus. Borrowing money a almost 0% interest to rebuild our nation's infrastructure and get the economy going seems like a good choice to me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    3. Arthur Daley -- The housing crisis was created by liar loans sold on to investment banks which paid the ratings agencies to give them triple A ratings. Fanny and Freddy were late to the game and didn't deal with the lowest quality loans. Re-enacting Glass Steagall Act has no chance with the Republicans -- get real.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    The 64 year Arab war to destroy Israel has failed.So have the hopes of their Jew hating friends among whom are some who post here and elsewhere on BBC. Isn't it nice to know that even someone who is no friend of Israel's like Barack Obama understands that he cannot buck the political tide that binds the US to Israel and that the US will provide whatever is necessary for it to survive.Count on it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    224. John_From_Dublin
    Too bad some of the posters here were unknown to Orwell, he could have done a lot with the material they provide. Two of them even seem to be in a contest to parody themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    Oh, also, to Kirin. Here's something for you to consider:

    Yes, that's right. A holocaust survivor that does not at all like Israel's behaviour. Oh, and I might add that this is not the only place this has been mentioned.

    + There's been claims by Israel that some survivors in their 80s are a "risk" to Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    re "You mean the flotilla where the terrorist attacked Israeli troops as they ..."

    Terrorists? Let's get this perfectly clear. The Israelis had firearms. So, if they were supposedly being attacked then they should have used their RANGE weapons iso boarding a ship in international water! Turks trip was meant to be peaceful. Israel is to blame for the attack.

    Hint: Lying works better with "proof".

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Our too big to jail captains of finance hedge not just funds but electoral campaign bets as well, and with methods of the deferred bribe, control too many both R and D.
    Though it's worth noting since Obama's signing of Dodd-Frank, Wall St. dollars have trickled in torrents to the GOP. I'll take a small start over regression.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    #228 Yes, but voters need to make it clear that's what they want - to the point where they will no longer tolerate the excesses of the Hedgefundbankerspeculator fraternity - Ron Paul, is the only US politician who has attempted to take this stance and he was sidelined just like ordinary voters - US/UK needS politicians with conviction not politicians who should be convicted.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    #214 – You’re right about both parties failing to do enough about getting the regulations to fit. You’d think it would be a vote getter for one or the other!

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    1st, Obama cut taxes for 95% of Americans, tax cuts for the wealthy is the Romney/Paul plan. "Broadening the tax base" = poor & middle class pay more.
    2nd, In any recession, govt deficits will increase regardless. As jobs decrease so do tax revenues, but then govt welfare payments to the unemployed increase. You do remember this recession began before Obama was sworn in, right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    ‘Voting for Obama is voting for Bush Jr
    Voting for Romney is voting for Clinton ‘
    I disagree with your hypothesis

    Voting for Obama is Voting Clinton*
    Voting for Romney is Voting Bush**

    (*) Bill
    (**) George W.

    but Voting Romney is Voting Donny Osmond
    and Voting Obama is Voting young Micheal Jackson

  • Comment number 225.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.


    ‘Voting for Obama is voting for Bush Jr
    Voting for Romney is voting for Clinton ‘

    ‘War Is Peace
    Freedom Is Slavery
    Ignorance Is Strength’

    (1984, George Orwell)


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