The Wall Street Journal: McGurn: An Evening With Bill Clinton

September 3rd, 2012

The Wall Street Journal
September 3, 2012



Ever since Democratic organizers announced a marquee slot for Bill Clinton at the convention, speculation has focused on the former president’s intentions. He’s positioning Hillary for 2016, say some. It’s all part of a master plot to undercut President Obama, say others.

All nonsense, says Michael Waldman. The former chief speech writer for the 42nd president says his old boss has accepted a starring role in Charlotte on Wednesday night for two reasons. First, Mr. Clinton loves the convention format—speaking before the Democratic Party faithful, explaining public policy to a national audience, all at a pivotal moment in a presidential election year. Second, he’s good at it.

“If one of the purposes of the Democratic convention is to define Mitt Romney and his platform,” says Mr. Waldman, “Bill Clinton has a lot of in-built credibility because Americans associate him with prosperity.”

He adds: “Clinton is unusually good at talking about day-to-day statistics in a way that makes policy come alive. Obama isn’t particularly good at that, and, at least at his own convention, Romney didn’t do it. By explaining the policy differences between what a Romney administration would do and what a second Obama administration will do in language people can understand, Clinton can take some of the heat off Obama.”

Certainly it will be a vindication for Mr. Clinton. Back in 2008, the politician formerly known as the first black president came to the convention stage stung by Democratic accusations of racism because of his attacks, in support of Hillary’s candidacy, on the man who would actually become the first black president. Democrats were thus nervous about what Mr. Clinton might say—and relieved when he did what party elders are expected to do, which is to bind up the wounds inflicted during a hard-fought primary season.

Read More