Bill Clinton blasts Romney plans
Charlotte, North Carolina (CNN) — President Barack Obama speaks Thursday to the Democratic National Convention that nominated him for re-election, following a forceful political endorsement from former President Bill Clinton.
In a highly anticipated speech to an overflowing Time Warner Cable Arena, Clinton picked apart Republican attacks and explained why Obama can achieve the same economic growth that he did in the 1990s.
He said the man who defeated his wife for the Democratic nomination four years ago offers a better path forward for the country that will promote united values rather than the winner-takes-all mentality of Republicans.
He framed the November election as the opportunity for voters to choose what kind of country they want.
“If you want a winner-take-all, you’re-on-your-own 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 Joe Biden.”
When Clinton finished his 48-minute address that was much longer than planned, delegates erupted in raucous cheers as Obama made his first appearance at the convention by joining him onstage. The two most recent Democratic presidents embraced and stood arm-in-arm waving to the crowd.
Analysts called the speech vintage Clinton, blending an expert’s command of figures and details with a down-home touch of language and emotion that made him one of the best communicators and politicians of his era.
“If Barack Obama gets re-elected, I think tonight will be a good reason why,” said Republican strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos, adding that Clinton gave Democrats “a master class” on moving to the political center.
Others noted that Clinton did the dirty work of partisan attacks on GOP nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, leaving Obama to tell the nation his vision for a second term in his nationally televised speech that will conclude the convention.
“The most important thing for this election is for Barack Obama to tell us what he’s going to do with the next four years,” said Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Paul Begala.
In his speech, Clinton responded to the attack line by Romney and Ryan that Obama’s policies made things worse for Americans already confronting economic hardship four years ago.
Noting the economic crises Obama inherited upon taking office in January 2009, Clinton declared: “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.”
The Romney campaign responded to Clinton’s speech by saying it drew a “stark contrast” between the two-term Democratic president’s accomplishments and those of Obama in what it called “the worst economic record of any president in modern history.”
“President Clinton’s speech brought the disappointment and failure of President Obama’s time in office clearly into focus,” said the statement from campaign spokesman Ryan Williams.
Clinton sought to explain the disappointment cited by Republicans, telling the convention that “a lot of Americans are still angry and frustrated by this economy” and had yet to feel any benefits from a sluggish recovery under Obama.
“I had the same thing happen in 1994 and early ’95,” Clinton said, drawing a parallel between his experience and Obama’s presidency. “We could see it was working, that the economy was growing, but people just couldn’t see it yet.”
Referring to last week’s GOP convention, Clinton said that “in Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple, pretty snappy. It went something like this: ‘We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.'”
“I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better,” Clinton said, adding the steps in the first term to prevent an economic crash laid the foundation for a more modern and balanced economy in the future.
He took aim at what he called the unwillingness of conservative Republicans to work with Obama and Democrats in any meaningful way to address the nation’s chronic debt and deficit increases and other issues.
Democratic economic policies have proven successful in the past, Clinton said, noting that Democratic administrations created 42 million jobs in their 24 years in power since 1961, compared to 24 million by GOP administrations in the other 28 years.
“It turns out advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and economically sound,” he continued.
Alluding to the rough primary campaign in 2008 when Obama triumphed over Clinton’s wife, Hillary, for the Democratic nomination, the former president said Obama showed his willingness to work with anyone by appointing her as his secretary of state and also including Republicans in his Cabinet as secretaries of defense and transportation.
Clinton also listed Obama’s achievements, focusing in particular on the 2010 health care reform law that he said has lowered health care costs and provided benefits for consumers such as allowing parents to keep children up to age 26 on family policies and preventing insurers from denying coverage for children due to pre-existing conditions.
“We’re better off because President Obama fought for health care reform,” Clinton declared, ‘You bet we are.”
At the same time, Clinton criticized Republican proposals to overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid government health care programs for senior citizens, the poor and disabled.
“If that happens, I don’t know what those families are going to do,” he said, shouting: “We can’t let that happen.”
Clinton also derided Republican deficit reduction plans, saying “the numbers don’t add up” because of planned tax cuts without any new revenue sources. The result will be widespread spending cuts that hurt the middle class and other vulnerable segments of society.
“Don’t you ever forget when you hear them talking about this that Republican economic policy quadrupled the debt in the 12 years before I took office and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left because it defied arithmetic,” he said.
Clinton took particular aim at Ryan, the architect of the conservative House Republican budget that included many of the proposals he criticized, accusing him of lying about issues such as the health care law and the Obama administration’s recent move to give states more flexibility in administering federally funded welfare programs. The issues have been major GOP focuses in attack ads and speeches against Obama.