Clinton, Downgraded

Clinton, Downgraded

Once, he was the “Comeback Kid.” Now, he’s “Boilerplate Bill.” 

Former President Bill Clinton told the delegates to the Democratic National Convention everything they had already heard over the past two days. Even the smears were old.

The only interesting moment was when Clinton ad-libbed a Birther joke. (Racist!) 

Otherwise, the speech was a dud. No surprises, just a loyal party member showing up to pay his dues. Even Clinton seemed bored.

The speech was hidden from journalists beforehand–though it was unclear why, since every major point was a fragment of revisionist history or imaginative speculation that some other Obama surrogate had already read off the TelePrompTer in one form or another. 

Clinton couldn’t say much about the Obama record, so he framed the choice as between “you’re on your own” and “we’re all in it together. (Yes, you’ve heard it before.)

Clinton’s delivery was tired and plodding, with plenty of finger-wagging and lip-licking. It did have a certain folksy appeal–but largely because it contrasted so sharply in tone (not in content) from what had preceded it, particularly the overwrought exhortations of Sandra Fluke. 

It was important–necessary, even–that Clinton not sound too appealing. His job was to be earnest, affirming, but essentially mediocre, and he mostly complied.

There was one way–and only one, really–that Clinton’s speech was interesting, and not in a good way. In recalling that he had worked with Republicans, and continues to do so–even praising George W. Bush’s HIV/Aids work in Africa–he not only contrasted his own style with that of President Barack Obama, but also undercut his own achievement by refusing to give Republicans joint credit for balancing the budget during his term.

In a clumsy line–written for him by the Obama campaign, apparently–Clinton praised the President’s plan to balance the budget by comparing it to the Simpson-Bowles plan that the President refused to endorse.

That allowed the Obama campaign to appear to endorse Simpson-Bowles by proxy, while offering it deniability and escape. It was–like many of the commitments Obama has made over the years–attractive, and empty.

Speaking for the few conservative reporters in the building, I can say that last night’s speech by Michelle Obama was not only more effective, but also more enjoyable, false though much of it was

Clinton’s best argument for the President was that he “had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.” People once said that about Hillary Clinton, too–that Bill owed his ascent to her. 

Hillary was far away tonight. Perhaps that explains it.

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