Bill Clinton urges Americans to stick with Obama
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina - The Associated Press
U.S. President Bill Clinton stands with Democratic presidential candidate, U.S. President Barack Obama (R) on stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. AFP PhotoBill Clinton made a passionate call for Americans to return Barack Obama with the White House, telling a television audience of millions that no U.S. president - not even he - could have repaired in one presidential term all the economic damage inherited from Republicans almost four years ago.
Clinton’s address, the highlight of the second day of the Democratic National Convention, struck at Republican Mitt Romney’s core message: that tepid economic growth and 8.3 percent unemployment is proof that Obama’s presidency has failed and that Americans would be better off turning to a successful businessman like Romney to revive the economy. The candidates are locked in a tight race ahead of the Nov. 6 election.
Clinton gave an unhesitating, spirited endorsement of the president’s handling of the economy.
"Conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract, you will feel it," he said. "I believe that with all my heart."
The choice of Clinton to formally nominate Obama during prime television viewing time raised eyebrows, given the checkered history between the men. But Democrats see him as having unique credibility as a president who took office during hard times and oversaw a long period of prosperity in the 1990s. He remains enormously popular. Even Republicans, who tried to force him from office on charges he lied under oath about an affair, now praise his record balancing budgets and reforming welfare - if only to draw a contrast with Obama. Opinion polls show Clinton is especially well-regarded among white male voters, a group that favors Romney.
The speech was vintage Clinton. Famously long-winded, he commanded the stage for about 50 minutes while Obama waited backstage. He delivered insults to Republicans with a folksy grin and his familiar Arkansas drawl. He said the Republican campaign argument is "pretty simple: ’We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.’" Clinton accused Republicans of proposing "the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place" and led to a near financial meltdown.
He described Obama as "a man who is cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside." He said the president has "laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy."
"President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did," he said. "Listen to me now: No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, no one could have fully repaired all the damage that he found in just four years."
After the speech, Clinton was joined onstage by Obama, who made his first appearance at the convention. The former president bowed, and Obama pulled him into an embrace as thousands of delegates jammed into the convention hall roared their approval. The delegates then made Obama’s nomination official in a state-by-state roll call vote.
Obama delivers his acceptance speech Thursday in the climax of the three-day convention. Democrats have abandoned plans for him to speak at a large football stadium, citing weather concerns.
Republicans mocked the decision to move Thursday’s speech from the 74,000-seat stadium to the 15,000-seat convention arena. "Problems filling the seats?" Republican spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski wrote in a statement.
Democrats have used their convention to push back against Republican claims at their gathering last week that Obama’s devotion to big-government solutions has stifled the U.S. economy and swollen the national deficit. Democrats have countered that Romney would go back to the economic policies that led to a recession, helping the wealthy while denying opportunities to the poor and middle class.
Clinton, who formally nominated Obama as the Democratic candidate, followed on that theme.
"If you want a you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket," Clinton said. "If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility - a we’re-all-in-this-together society - you should vote for Barack Obama and (Vice President) Joe Biden."
The two presidents are a study in contrasts. Clinton is outgoing, emotional and chatty, while Obama is meticulous and reserved. Tensions built up between the two as Obama ran against Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, in the 2008 campaign. But Hillary Clinton is now Obama’s loyal secretary of state - and a potential presidential candidate in 2016. She is on an 11-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region and was in East Timor as her husband spoke.
The Democratic convention, like the Republican one in Tampa, was carefully crafted to avoid controversies. Still Democrats came under fire Tuesday for adopting a platform, a nonbinding declaration of principles and positions, that had no mention of God and no reference to Jerusalembeing the capital of Israel. Though the Jerusalem reference is offensive to many Arabs who see the city as part of a future Palestinian state, both parties have long included it in their platforms as a sign of their unwavering support for Israel.
On Wednesday, embarrassed Democrats amended the platform to include references to God and Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Some delegates objected loudly, but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ruled them outvoted. Campaign officials say Obama personally intervened to make the change.
Despite the dispute, the often-fractious Democrats have generally maintained unity as they try to regenerate the excitement that surrounded Obama’s candidacy four years ago, when his inspirational message of hope and change led to his election as America’s first black president. But after almost four years of bitter partisan battles and high unemployment, Obama’s support has dropped. While polls show he is more widely liked than Romney on a personal level, Romney is seen as a better bet for improving the economy.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, framed the economic debate against Obama in an email to supporters Wednesday, writing that "no president in modern history has ever asked to be re-elected with this many Americans out of work."
In an interview on Fox News Channel, Romney said: "Anyone who wants him to try again will be making a big mistake."