Politics & Policy

Clinton and His Credibility

He tried gamely but made only a weak case for Obama.

As some down in Charlotte have noted, the Democratic convention was essentially over with former president Bill Clinton’s address.

While some may focus on Obama’s speech from last night, I still can’t get past Clinton’s remarks from Wednesday night, when he gave what amounted to an almost hour-long apology for why none of the promises President Obama made four years ago have been carried out. It had to be the most unusual introduction of a president in the history of politics. “Here’s why we’ve failed for four years, which is also why you should give him four more years during which he pledges to behave the same way.”

The economy is still in the slowest non-recovery in modern history, and every one of the administration’s economic forecasts was wrong — because of former president George W. Bush. Just keep spending or “investing” our grandchildren’s money in public-union projects and other crony-backed energy boondoggles like Solyndra and the economy will suddenly see the wisdom in this and turn around and get off the sidelines with renewed confidence in the president.

Talk about doubling down on failed policies. Though one would never know it from the commentators, before the housing bubble induced by Fannie Mae and the Federal Reserve burst right before the 2008 election, the Bush years brought us an unprecedented number of quarters of growth and tax revenues from an economy that had received tax cuts. Compare that with unemployment rates, and debt and welfare levels, under the guys “getting us out of this mess.”

The most egregious moment of Clinton’s stroll down False Memory Lane was probably when he touted Obama’s commitment to cooperation and bipartisanship — the kind we saw when he shoved Obamacare down the nation’s unwilling throat with no Republican votes, as well as a victory tainted by the corrupt prosecution of Senator Ted Stevens, who was replaced with an Obama ally.

This would also be the same outreach that Obama showed when Paul Ryan, as House budget chairman, laid a serious entitlement-reform proposal on the table. Obama invited Ryan for a front-row seat to a speech he gave while he misrepresented and demagogued the Ryan plan as cronies at the DNC ran misleading commercials of a Ryan lookalike pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff.

Regarding Clinton’s claim that no one could have turned things around in four years after such a bad recession, just two words: Ronald Reagan. He did it in the 1980s with policies that were the exact opposite of those of Obama (and now, apparently, Clinton).

Clinton touted his mastery of arithmetic but ignored the illogic of his defense brief. With regard to the Republican claim that Obama is opening the door to requiring less work for welfare? According to Clinton, Obama is actually increasing the work requirement on this Obama constituency in this election year.

On the claim of Obama’s stripping over $700 billion out of Medicare? It is only going to come out of the hides of insurance companies, doctors, and hospitals caring for your loved ones. They undoubtedly will continue to happily absorb the cuts and provide the same or better quality of care. Besides, Clinton would remind us, no doctor or hospital in America has yet proven to federal bureaucrats that their costs are needed or deserved.

Clinton’s speech was a mile wide and an inch deep. While pretending to be a detailed rebuttal from a senior statesman, it was more like a closing argument from a clever but up-against-it country lawyer desperately trying to persuade a jury he considers to be not too bright to accept his interpretation of the facts.

No wonder Obama chose Clinton for this speech. Until recently I’ll bet Obama never thought his presidency would have to rely on the credibility of Bill Clinton. Who better to look straight into the camera, wag his finger, and ­­­deny the obvious?

It will be hard to tell whether Clinton’s arm was most sore yesterday morning from trying to pull Obama out of a ditch or from patting himself on the back. He talked about how he took over a recession in 1993 and turned the economy around. Shockingly, there are a couple of things that Ol’ Bill forgot to mention. The economy was beginning to turn around during the last quarter of the George H. W. Bush administration, and the country simply continued recovering, as it always has. Well, until now.

He took credit for four balanced budgets, but didn’t mention that a Republican House and Senate, including yours truly, pushed them on him. He took credit for the Republican welfare-reform bill that he vetoed twice before signing it during an election year. And, by the way, the economic recovery didn’t really kick in until we passed and he signed a capital-gains-tax cut.

The more relevant point here is that while Clinton moved toward the center (“the era of big government is over”) — albeit often kicking and screaming — Obama has adamantly refused to do so, while kowtowing to the Left and infuriating those on the right and the center by arguing that fiscal disaster can be averted if only we’ll tax a handful of rich people a little more and cut the military.

I’ll say one thing for Clinton. He’s proving that a large part of the chattering classes, and possibly Americans in general, have lost their sense of irony. Here is Bill Clinton charging that Paul Ryan “looked into that camera” and lied to the American people. He then chided Ryan for criticizing the administration for “doing what he had done.” The crowd ate it up.

John Edwards must have looked on and quietly started making notes for a future Democratic-convention speech.

— Fred Thompson represented Tennessee in the U.S. Senate from 1994 to 2003. For more from Fred Thompson, visit FredThompsonsAmerica.com.

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