I don't know if tonight was Bill Clinton's best speech ever, but it certainly ranked among his best. Clinton's speeches sometimes suffer because they are always about himself, and because they are sometimes packed with an excessive level of policy detail. But Clinton turned those possible defects to advantage tonight. He used his own experience as president to explain why President Obama deserves re-election. Clinton used his mastery of policy detail to demolish the Republicans' arguments in support of a Romney presidency.
But Clinton started by extolling the virtues of cooperation over constant conflict. Here is someone who built a foundation that engages in do-good projects all over the world, working closely with some of his former political adversaries like the first President Bush. Imagine being able to do that after suffering the savage attacks of Republicans during his presidency: the Whitewater witch hunt; the Gingrich-engineered government shut-downs; the unjustified impeachment over the Lewinsky affair. Clinton has every right to be bitter, but he is not bitter. He is telling us we need to sit down with people with whom we may disagree and find a way to work together to get things done.
What better person to call out the Republicans for their relentless opposition and partisanship? And something more:
“Though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.”
Clinton raises the question I remember a young boy asking President Obama at a town hall event: Why do they hate you so much? And leaves it hanging.
Then the one-two punch: After telling us he doesn't hate the Republicans, that he still wants to work with them, and that he can't understand why they spew so much hate and uncooperativeness themselves, Clinton proceeds to take apart the Republican criticisms of President Obama, and their own policy proposals, bit by bit. Until the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. And the most devastating critique? Of course it's the one any third grader can understand: Arithmetic. Romney's budget and tax proposals just don't add up.