I have never thought Clinton a particularly gifted speaker, and I have quite neutral feelings about his presidency, but this speech really was something. He was articulate; gave detail where it was needed to counter Republican memes (and in particular, to summarise perfectly the problem with the Romney tax plan); and made several well deserved calls for the Right to come back to the centre for the good of the nation.
Former Bush aide Matt Latimer, clearly no fan of Clinton's style, still reached this conclusion, with which I thoroughly agree:
Here’s why I think Bill Clinton’s speech was successful. For all of his tortured arguments and wonky, ponderous asides, Bill Clinton made a substantive case. He dealt with facts and statistics. He made points and then explained why he made them. He had details. Boy, did he have details. In short, he did what almost no one at the Republican convention tried to do, what few conventions bother to do anymore. He treated the American people like thinking human beings.The only problem I see with the speech was that it was so effective, where does it leave Obama to go in his acceptance? I guess a nomination acceptance speech is not the place to be doing the sort of detail that Clinton managed anyway, but I think there is still a bit of danger in Obama sounding too full of mere "hope and change-y" rhetoric again. In fact, I wouldn't think it a bad idea if Obama appeared somewhat contrite about not being able to live up to expectations that people had built up around him.
One other point: while I guess there are still ways for this convention to go sour for the Democrats, who can credibly argue that in both appearance and content it is not putting the Republican one to shame? And this is driving the Right wing bloggers nuts, I reckon. Unbelievably, Andrew Bolt thought the Clint Eastwood empty chair routine was devastating (well it was, but not in the way Andrew thought):
Clint Eastwood didn’t just hit the ball out of the park at the Republican convention. He smashed it through the White House windows.Bolt hasn't commented on the Clinton speech yet, and as I say, it remains possible that the Democrats could try something that backfires on the last day as well. But from this point in time, it's looking like the lingering impressions from the conventions are going to be from Clint and Clinton.
One of the most effective political speeches I’ve ever heard, although most of its power came simply from the man who delivered it.
Andrew, if there is any faint glimmer of objectivity left in your head, which do you think is going to play well in history?
Update: for some pretty funny stuff from Jon Stewart on the convention, you can see a 10 minutes clip here at Mediaite.