Former US president Bill Clinton made a passionate call for Americans to return US President Barack Obama to the White House, telling a television audience of millions on Wednesday that no US president — not even he — could have repaired in one presidential term all the economic damage inherited from Republicans almost four years ago.
Clinton’s address, the highlight of the second day of the Democratic National Convention, struck at Republican Mitt Romney’s core message: That tepid economic growth and 8.3 percent unemployment is proof that Obama’s presidency has failed and that Americans would be better off turning to a successful businessman like Romney to revive the economy. The candidates are locked in a tight race ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Clinton gave an unhesitating, spirited endorsement of the president’s handling of the economy.
“Conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract, you will feel it,” he said. “I believe that with all my heart.”
The choice of Clinton to formally nominate Obama during prime television viewing time raised eyebrows, given the checkered history between the men. However, Democrats see him as having unique credibility as a president who took office during hard times and oversaw a long period of prosperity in the 1990s. He remains enormously popular. Even Republicans, who tried to force him from office on charges he lied under oath about an affair, now praise his record balancing budgets and reforming welfare — if only to draw a contrast with Obama. Opinion polls show Clinton is especially well-regarded among white male voters, a group that favors Romney.
The speech was vintage Clinton. Famously long-winded, he commanded the stage for about 50 minutes while Obama waited backstage. He delivered insults to Republicans with a folksy grin and his familiar Arkansas drawl. He said the Republican campaign argument is “pretty simple: ‘We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.’” Clinton accused Republicans of proposing “the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place” and led to a near financial meltdown.
He described Obama as “a man who is cool on the outside, but who burns for America on the inside.” He said the president has “laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy.”
“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” he said. “Listen to me now: No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.”
After the speech, Clinton was joined onstage by Obama, who made his first appearance at the convention. The former president bowed and Obama pulled him into an embrace as thousands of delegates jammed into the convention hall roared their approval. The delegates then made Obama’s nomination official in a state-by-state roll-call vote.
Obama was to deliver his acceptance speech yesterday in the climax of the three-day convention. Democrats have abandoned plans for him to speak at a large football stadium, citing weather concerns.
Democrats have used their convention to push back against Republican claims at their gathering last week that Obama’s devotion to big-government solutions has stifled the US economy and swollen the national deficit. Democrats have countered that Romney would go back to the economic policies that led to a recession, helping the wealthy while denying opportunities to the poor and middle class.