Denver — Agree or disagree with them, the three top Democratic speakers Wednesday night — John Kerry, Bill Clinton, and Joe Biden — all did an effective job of contrasting Republican and Democratic policies to the advantage of the latter. Traditionally, speakers at conventions also praise their presidential nominee’s accomplishments, experience, and qualifications. But the Democrats had trouble doing that last night.
Senator Kerry didn’t really even make an attempt. He argued that Obama had taken superior positions on policy issues, and that time had proven him right on several questions. He defended Obama’s patriotism. But he didn’t note anything that Obama had ever done.
Former president Clinton got more creative. Saying that “Obama is the man for this job,” Clinton justified this conclusion by pointing to such traits as his “ability to inspire people,” his “intelligence and curiosity,” and “his policies.” He asserted, without attempting to back up the claim, that Obama had shown “a clear grasp of foreign policy and national security challenges.” His other qualifications included “his family heritage and his life experiences,” which “have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation in an ever more interdependent world.”
Clinton listed only two actual Obama accomplishments, both from this year: He got through a “long, hard primary” and showed great judgment in picking Sen. Biden as his running mate.
Maybe Clinton was being grudging because he resents Obama’s primary victory. Surely Biden, on the other hand, had only no reason to downplay Obama’s qualifications? Yet his list of Obama’s accomplishments was only a bit more extensive. The first was Obama’s decision to pass up a Wall Street job to become a community organizer. Whether Obama accomplished anything for the community in this capacity went unmentioned in Biden’s speech, which dwelt instead on his good intentions. Biden then listed five legislative accomplishments — three in Illinois and two in Washington. None of them were major, or particularly controversial, pieces of legislation.
Obama’s champions just seem to have a hard time, for some reason, coming up with Obama accomplishments to brag about.
– Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor of National Review.