President Bill Clinton speaks Wednesday to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
CHARLOTTE A rocky second day of the Democratic National Convention almost ended with a flourish, as former President Bill Clinton formally nominated President Obama for a second term of office. While Clinton invoked warm and fuzzy memories of better times, and initially had the crowds inside Time Warner Cable Arena in a near-swoon, he had to indulge himself, giving a disjointed 50-minute speech that was about 20 minutes too long.
The convention took some shots earlier in the day. Around noon, the Obama campaign announced that the president's acceptance speech would not take place in Bank of America Stadium but instead at the much-smaller indoor arena. The campaign cited the threat of storms as the reason, and the volunteers and other non-delegate Obama supporters who had been promised a chance to witness the address were not happy. (See Barry Smith's story here.)
Later, party leaders insisted that the platform adopted Tuesday be amended, restoring mentions of God and the affirmation that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Both provisions had been removed, causing an outrage from supporters of Israel and religious Democrats.
The fixes were made publicly, and plenty of the delegates opposed them loudly.
Clinton had an even tougher task in front of him when he took the stage Wednesday night. Instead of sticking to his task of making a focused, impassioned sales pitch for Obama's second term, the 42nd president drifted and then stalled, spending too much time defending his own record as president and perhaps making the delegates remember his two terms too fondly. During the 30 minutes or so Clinton was in top form, he connected with the audience in such a way that he may upstage whatever Obama has in store for the delegates tonight.
Clinton's message rarely strayed from domestic economic policy. And while he spoke in glowing tones of his success of working with Republicans, whom he recalled as being quite reasonable and moderate back in his day (Newt who?), the current Romney-Ryan ticket was beyond the pale.
Republicans deserved credit, Clinton said, for advocating a coherent policy and believing what they said. But his interpretation of those views were little more than the cartoonish criticisms of conservatism that have been restated throughout the convention: Republicans will scrap regulations letting corporations run roughshod over workers and public safety; they'll raise taxes on the middle class while the wealthy bask in luxury; they'll starve basic public services like infrastructure, education, and environmental protection; and they'll leave the poor, the sick, and the disabled to wither and die.
It's a caricature of the conservative ideal of self-reliance, and an insult to the intelligence of voters, but the delegates ate it up.
Obama took a risk in asking Clinton to speak on his behalf, and even with Clinton's self-indulgent ramblings, it will tough for the sitting president to surpass his predecessor.
Earlier in the evening, North Carolina political icon Jim Hunt spoke on the president's behalf, and reclaimed his role as the undisputed leader of the Democratic Party in North Carolina. Not surprisingly, the four-term governor highlighted public education, beginning with pre-Kindergarten programs and ending with the graduate programs at the UNC system campuses.
Unfortunately, in his accurate portrayal of a state that has emerged from extreme poverty and the evils of segregation to be an economic dynamo, he scarcely mentioned the role private sector entrepreneurs played in that success story.
Hunt did not stray from the convention's overarching theme that government is the foundation of all that's good in the country and that any attempt to limit it spells disaster.
He got a big rise from the crowd by comparing tax cuts and regulatory reform to magic. "Folks, magic didn't do it in North Carolina," Hunt said. "This is not a time for America to believe in magic."
John Locke Foundation President John Hood offered the antidote for that thinking in his recent book Our Best Foot Forward. Buy it from the JLF Store by clicking here.
Rick Henderson (@deregulator)is managing editor of Carolina Journal.