In fact, I think it was the best articulation of the situation I've seen yet - done in human terms, in a folksy and engaging way - but cutting and effective on the issues that really matter. Also, I liked how Clinton (and therefore the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party) embraced the economy as the central issue in the campaign instead of running away from it or offering up other issues (foreign policy for example) as the key thing to focus on. No, Bill clearly wanted to engage and discuss the economy and squarely lay out what's worked, what hasn't and the differences between the two candidates and parties.
To my ear, the most effective lines of argument issued by Clinton were those painting the stark contrast between what the other party represents and would bring to the White House, regardless of what one things of Obama. Specifically, I heard Clinton say:
- Romney/Ryan are offering the exact same economic ideas that got us into the mess in the first place...massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations; major deregulation of finance, energy and other industries; deletion of healthcare reform laws and a big increases in defense spending all at the same time. This policy is a proven failure. It produced massive budget deficits and a major recession by the end of the 1980s and we all know what happened when the Rs enacted this policy when they ran the government in the 2000s. Why? The arithmetic simply does not - and never has - added up.
- Romney/Ryan literally represent the Republican "zero tolerance" political philosophy of obstruct, say no and do not compromise...and that's not only bad politics, but more importantly it's bad economic policy. Related, the cynical strategy the Rs adopted five minutes after Obama was inaugurated in 2009 was to pin their mess on him, refuse to cooperate with him and, ultimately, hope the American public would literally forget that they ran the county into the ground from 2001 to 2008.
- Romney/Ryan embody the immoral "I got mine, you're on your own...good luck" philosophy that isolates, divides and subjugates virtually everyone in society save the already rich and powerful.
- Romney/Ryan are less than honest on the campaign trail. More than most politicians (of both parties) who "fudge" the truth and spin for effect, R/R go out of their way to just make stuff up. For example, Clinton pointed out how R/R have taken Obama's response to the requests by a number of governors (mostly Republican) to waive certain Federal welfare policy requirements so that those governors could enact even more effective "back to work" programs and suddenly turned it into "Obama wants to give welfare money to people without requiring them to work." Just not true.
By comparison to that, I thought the other part of Clinton's speech was equally good in terms of setting up Obama as the guy to keep on the job:
- Obama inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression and has done a good job - despite Republican obstructions - to stem the bleeding and get the economy on at least a balanced footing.
- Obama - despite how the Rs have treated him - still is dedicated to true bipartisan solutions that work for most if not all Americans. Now, I personally think this is what cost Obama the 2010 mid-term elections as he did not understand that the Rs were not under any circumstances work with him...and therefore they could run (and win Congressional seats) on the assertion that Obama and the Ds were not leading us out of the poor economy. But in any case, in his appeal the center of American voters, Clinton did a good job in painting Obama as a fair guy wanting to work with anyone for solutions.
- Obama (and Democrats) belief in investing in education, infrastructure, corporate innovation and new forms of energy is a superior set of priorities that will pay dividends in the form of jobs and an expanding middle class.
- Obama's priorities and record are about opening up opportunity, not limiting them. This is in stark contrast with the Rs.
In all, the speech was a master work by a great orator. Clinton effectively attacked the Republicans and set the table for Obama himself to lay out his plans tonight. To me, it's a clear and obvious choice which way to vote this fall...and I did not need Bill Clinton's talk last night to convince me. But, to the degree there are some "likely voters" out there who are still undecided and who saw the speech...I say that Bill did a great job in trying to convince them what to do.