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The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Bill Clinton Is Still Talking



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Three sections from the Morning Jolt of Thursday:

Lucky for Republicans, Bill Clinton Thinks He’s Too Good for an Editor

Bill Clinton saved Republicans by being self-indulgent.

Because, for about ten to fifteen minutes last night, ol’ Bubba’s mojo was working. Clinton is the best speaker the Democrats have — much better than Obama. Just one serving of Clinton’s emoting demonstrates how overrated Obama’s in-this-moment-we-make-history grandeur shtick is. So they gave Clinton the toughest assignments: Persuade the public that the so-called “recovery” is the best anyone could have hoped for, that none of the Republican criticisms of Obama raise any legitimate points, and that there really is reason to believe that the next four years will be better than the past four.

Clinton has a gift for making the unreasonable sound reasonable and making the reasonable sound unreasonable, and it worked for the first . . . ten to fifteen minutes or so. But somewhere around “partnership, not partisanship” — a sentiment completely at odds with every other speech given at this convention, and about 99 percent of the messaging from the Obama campaign and its allied super PACs — the speech became a bridge too far. And then it went on. And on. And on. Longer than Clinton’s much-mocked 1988 keynote address.

The nightly newscasts were delayed considerably. The comments on Twitter became less adoring and cheering and more and more questions about when Clinton would wrap it up. And Clinton’s speech just kept going.

As the sections continued, it became clear that this is what Bill Clinton lives for — how he misses the excitement, the attention, the power. . . . The presidency is like a drug, and while I’m sure his post-presidential life has its perks — though he is a vegan now — nothing is quite like having an arena full of adoring fans, hanging on your every word, ready to applaud and cheer your every utterance. The two-term limit is the only thing that is keeping him from running again.

And the speech just kept going.

The man impeached for committing perjury accused Republicans of lying. And the speech just kept going.

The man who embarrassed his most loyal fans and followers and staff by engaging in wildly reckless behavior and then offering implausible explanations and even more implausible excuses, who once suggested the political rhetoric of his foes motivated Timothy McVeigh, now insisted that politics “can be an honorable enterprise that advances the public interest.” And the speech just kept going.

Somehow it seemed fitting that the remaining viewers who were still watching were, in all likelihood, doing so in bed.

By the time it ended, everyone forgot that Bill Clinton began his tribute to President Obama by saluting his excellent judgment in whom to marry. I wonder how the secretary of state interpreted that remark.

2. The Pre-Game Show The 8 p.m. hour began with Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.

How often does the head of a PAC address a political convention? I suppose a lot of candidates and former candidates have PACs, but Richards is there as . . . only the head of a powerful fundraising and political advertising organization. I’m not saying it’s a scandal, just a bit odd.

Tabitha Hale tweeted: “She said, ‘when women aren’t at the table, we are on the menu.’ Mitt Romney WILL EAT YOU!”

Ah, she’s the daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards. Well, that explains a bit.

Later, the president of the United Auto Workers spoke. Do the Republicans have the heads of their component interest groups speak? What is the equivalent of the UAW to Republicans? Defense contractors? The energy industry?

The Washington Free Beacon’s Katherine Miller observes, “Cecile Richards looks like she came out of central casting for the other woman, a high-powered attorney in a 1997 romantic comedy.”

I’ve heard good things about Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, but I didn’t see much in his speech to indicate he’s a rising star with charisma to spare. I did like his line that microbrewery production in his home state is up by 30 percent, though.

Governor Jack Markell of Delaware was mildly interesting, because he had the job of emphasizing that Democrats don’t hate businesses. He talked briefly about his own business experience and mentioned that he had an MBA — which generated the most tepid level of applause.

9:02: I hear that the fire marshals will no longer allow people into the building. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reports that “hundreds of delegates and journalists are locked out of the arena.” ABC News’s Jake Tapper reports that the crowd is getting “testy.”

9:45: Did Sandra Fluke get skipped? We’re past the point she was supposed to speak. Her sudden withdrawal would be . . . inconceivable.

Instead, we had a long, long, long address from the president of the UAW and then a trio of workers who blame their job losses on Bain Capital. I suppose we should be thankful that they didn’t roll out Joe Soptic to give a “Mitt Romney murdered my wife” speech.

10:00 p.m.: Ah, Sandra Fluke was held until prime time. The Democrats have placed their bet that her demand that her birth control be covered by her Catholic institution of higher learning is a winning one, and worthy of as wide an audience as possible . . . though perhaps a moot point, as the non-cable network correspondents’ introductions overrode her remarks.

I suppose if you’re a Democrat, and you’re going to have Sandra Fluke give a speech at your convention, that was the speech you want her to give. The problem is that the entire concept of Fluke speaking seems fundamentally flawed:

She’s 30 and she’s a student. Her entire pitch is based upon her demand that her (Catholic) univesity pay for something that many people pay for themselves. Rush Limbaugh calling her the s-word is a terrible thing to say, but Fluke acts as if it is some sort of massive national scandal that she was called a nasty name, in a culture where people send death threats over movie reviews. Her entire address is based upon the mentality of a victim.

10:15 Elizabeth Warren takes the stage. The cheers go up another decibel; this is prime time.

“Our middle class has been chipped, squeezed, and hammered. Talk to the construction worker I met from Malden, Massachusetts, who went nine months without finding work. Talk to the head of a manufacturing company in Franklin trying to protect jobs but worried about rising costs. Talk to the student in Worcester who worked hard to finish his college degree, and now he’s drowning in debt.” Four more years!

“He and Paul Ryan would pulverize financial reform, voucher-ize Medicare, and vaporize Obamacare!” Some delegates applaud in response to this; undoubtedly they are applauding what they think is a good attack line, but it looks like they’re applauding the vaporization of the unpopular law.

I suppose Warren did herself some good, but her pitch, and that of all of the Democrat speakers, requires a quite difficult pivot: They must first emphasize their empathy with those who are struggling to find jobs, full-time work, or better jobs, to refute the charge that they’re out of touch about the economy. Then they must offer some variation of, “You’ve never had it so good. Four more years!”

Walking past my spot during the course of the evening: Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.); Senator Chris Coons (D., Del.); former White House staffer Van Jones (D., Truther); Priorities USA super-PAC head honcho Bill Burton; Ashley Judd (as stunning as you would expect).

3. One Party’s for God and Jerusalem . . . The Other, Not So Much

So, if Republicans wanted the second day of the Democratic convention to go terribly wrong for the president’s party, what would they wish for?

How about a party platform that removes what had been some pretty-boilerplate language about God and a pledge that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel? How about a last-minute effort to undo the damage of those platform changes, and the assembled delegates being particularly vocal in their disagreement with the damage-control efforts? How about the Democratic National Convention delegates loudly booing God and Jerusalem? (Somewhere in the Fox News workspace, Karl Rove just stepped away from his pundit desk to just breathe it in deeply and savor the moment.) How about the Obama campaign making another attempt to save the circumstances by telling the Associated Press that the president “personally intervened” to restore the old language, while two members of the platform-writing committee told the blog of Foreign Policy magazine that those positions were an effort to reflect the current Obama-administration policies?

Coming up tomorrow night: booing motherhood, the flag, apple pie, and baseball.

Politico’s Dylan Byers:

Democratic National Committee chiefs Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Patrick Gaspard cancelled interviews with local media outlets tonight, amid controversy surrounding the party’s decision to reintroduce “God” and “Jerusalem” to the platform.

Blair Miller of WSOC-TV, ABC’s Charlotte affiliate, also Tweeted that Wasserman Schultz canceled her interview with him, without explanation. “After my Romney interview today, we were planning to interview Debbie Wasserman Schultz live,” he wrote. “However, she did not show up. Her staff not answering calls.”

Wasserman Schultz went on CNN tonight and denied reports of “discord” with the White House over the party’s decision to include the terms, claiming the party had “a two-thirds vote” on the issue.

After the interview, CNN host Anderson Cooper said Wasserman Schultz’s version of events was “an alternate reality.”

“From a reality standpoint,” he said, “to say flat-out, there was no discord, is just not true.”

By the way, the Jerusalem-is-the-capital-of-Israel foul-up is especially egregious, because this is one of those promises that never really needs to be kept, at least if recent history is any suggestion. Back in 1992, Bill Clinton attacked George H. W. Bush as soft in his support for Israel, pledging to move the U.S. embassy — currently in Tel Aviv — to Jerusalem. (If I remember correctly, we have a consulate in Jerusalem.) Then, once in office, Clinton and his team took a good look at the ramifications of that move — another round of predictable outrage and protests in the Arab world, a fairly serious security headache for staff within the embassy, and so on. And so Clinton set up a group to study it . . . that studied it . . . and studied it . . . and studied it . . . and basically kicked the can down the road for eight years. In 2000, George W. Bush used the exact same card against Democrats, made the exact same pledges to groups focused on U.S.-Israeli relations . . . and then ended up going down the same cul-de-sac of reviews, discussions, and analyses, and more reviews, discussions, and analyses. I’m sure there are few fans of the idea in Foggy Bottom, and nobody wants to be the one who has to answer for the decision if, God forbid, Hamas, Hezbollah, or other group sets off a car bomb outside the new embassy shortly after its opening. Sure, every U.S. diplomat abroad is a potential target for terrorism, but a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem would instantly rocket to the top of terrorists’ target lists.

In 2008 Barack Obama and his campaign broke with the tradition; he did not promise to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. You could say this represents a certain honorable honesty, a reluctance to make a promise he clearly had no intention of keeping . . .or maybe you could say this was a unique insult to Israel — he wasn’t even willing to make the same false promises his predecessors had. (The upside-down world of politics: Obama didn’t even respect friends of Israel enough to lie to them!)

As for God, expect just about every Democrat to invoke religion and faith from here on out. Last night featured one of the “Nuns on the Bus.” Elizabeth Warren said, “I grew up in the Methodist Church and taught Sunday school,” and quoted Scripture. (She didn’t refer to her alleged Native American heritage at all.)


Tags: Bill Clinton


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