Using revisionist history and grade inflation, Clinton labeled Obama’s presidency a success--according to a sliding scale that suggests Obama’s true failure and undermines Clinton’s own achievements:
“Yes We Can” became “No One Could Have” - Americans should not, Clinton urged, be disappointed in President Obama for failing to achieve the great things he promised in his soaring speeches--or even the bare minimum that we had expected. It was never actually possible, given the state the country had been in. “No president--not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years,” Clinton said.
That excuse is not only an acknowledgement of failure, but an admission of fraud. If he had not promised to do more, and to be more, than any other politician, Barack Obama would not only have lost the election in 2008--he would also have lost the primary to his rival, Hillary Clinton. At the time, Bill called Obama’s rhetoric what it was: a “fairy tale.” Today, Clinton is a willing accomplice to Obama’s bait-and-switch confidence game.
“Heal Our Politics” became “A Victim of Our Politics” - In 2008, Obama promised said he would transcend the partisan divisions of the past--and went on to become one of the most divisive presidents in our history. Clinton blamed a “faction” in charge of the Republican Party. He went on to praise Obama’s “preference for inclusion.” But Clinton--a past victim of Obama’s ruthless attacks--knows where the blame really lies.
Clinton added: “Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the debt before I took office and doubled it after I left." It was one of the best lines of the night--but omitted the fact that Republicans controlled Congress for most of Clinton’s eight years, and that he could not have balanced the budget without them. Left-wing Democrats like Obama attacked Clinton at the time for borrowing Republican ideas. Clinton has not forgotten.
“Better Off Four Years Ago” became “Better Off Than You Might Have Been” - The former president could not argue convincingly that the Obama administration had been a success--so he argued that a Romney administration would have been a failure. Republicans opposed the stimulus--therefore they opposed any jobs created since then. They opposed the jobs bill--therefore they opposed the jobs it might have created.
Here, Clinton was at his weakest, resorting to false claims and half-truths. He cited the jobs that the auto bailout had saved--without noting those it had destroyed. He praised Obama’s debt commission--without noting that Obama himself had not supported it. He claimed Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan made the same cuts Obama had--ignoring the fact that Ryan used those savings for Medicare, while Obama uses them for Obamacare.
In inflating Obama, Clinton diminished himself. The great distinction between them is that Clinton listened to voters when his party lost in 1994, while Obama doubled down on bad policies after 2010.
Clinton spoke in the name of “we Democrats,” but this is no longer his party. He once excited Americans about what we could achieve individually if we knew there was a safety net. Today, Obama tries to excite us about what he can do personally if we set aside individual success.
Not even Clinton could run on that platform and win.