Wednesday night at the
The former president took the stage to nominate the current president -- "I want to nominate a man who is cool on the outside, but burns for America on the inside" -- and found a way to turn every vulnerability of
Clinton is the best campaigner of his generation. In 1992, I stood nearby and observed him engaging voters one by one at a shopping mall in New Hampshire at a moment when everyone had written him off as hopelessly damaged by revelations about his cheap romances and his draft record. He turned himself into the Comeback Kid and then into Mr. President. In New Hampshire again four years later, I marveled as he seduced an entire crowd with his singular ability to connect on an intellectual and a visceral level simultaneously.
The last time I crossed paths with Clinton in person was in June 2008 at a school gymnasium in Helena, Mont. The long string of Democratic primaries was about to end in bitter defeat for his wife, Hillary, and it was not his best day. Clinton looked bloated, red-faced and weary. A group of foreign reporters were on hand to see the famous man and they were not impressed. I thought maybe his political mojo had finally run out.
But he is obviously back in top form. The speech he gave to the delegates in Charlotte was as good as it gets. His voice alternated between the casual cadence of his Arkansas roots and the dramatic inflections of a gospel preacher. His manner was intimate, as if he was talking to individuals, not a huge crowd in a packed arena. He elaborated on complex issues in a way that made sense to the common person overwhelmed by competing campaign claims.
His presentation was the first meaty policy speech at either convention, but instead of being tedious, it was exhilarating. It was also the toughest attack yet against the Republican ticket. In lieu of the cheap insults that speakers at both conventions have been trading, Clinton smartly picked apart the arguments and accusations the
Clinton's unapologetic defense of "
He took the healthcare debate further by pointing out the real cruelties of the Republicans' proposed cuts to Medicaid and framed the choice in this election as one between a GOP philosophy that says "you're on your own" and a Democratic guiding principle that says "we're all in this together."
Clinton summarized the GOP's case against Obama -- "We left him a total mess, he didn't clean it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in." -- then declared that no president, including himself, could have brought the country all the way back from the brink of disaster in just four years.