|Bill Clinton Last Night at the DNC|
(NEW YORK TIMES) CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Former President Bill Clinton and President Obama hugged onstage Wednesday night after Mr. Clinton delivered an impassioned plea on behalf of Mr. Obama’s re-election, the 42nd president nominating the 44th to a second term with a forceful and spirited argument that Democratic values would restore the promise of the middle class.
The former president delivered a point-by-point rebuttal of the arguments made during the Republican National Convention last week, warning against Republicans taking back the White House and declaring, “We can’t let it happen.”
He offered an equally detailed affirmative case for the re-election of Mr. Obama, saying there was no question the country was in a better position than it was four years ago.
“We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down,” Mr. Clinton said, repeatedly bringing the crowd at the Democratic convention to its feet. He added, “I love our country so much and I know we’re coming back.”
Mr. Clinton drew sharp lines between the choices facing voters in November. He made the case in a deeply personal way, sometimes articulating the argument for Mr. Obama more forcefully than the president has done throughout his race with Mitt Romney.
“We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own,’ ” Mr. Clinton said.
The delegates at the Democratic convention conducted the ceremonial roll call vote after Mr. Clinton’s speech, with Ohio putting Mr. Obama over the top and formally elevating him as the party’s presidential nominee at 12:06 a.m.
In a convention hall still buzzing from Mr. Clinton’s speech well after it ended, delegates said they believed the former president had managed to give the defense of Mr. Obama they had been waiting for.
“Some people just have to have it spelled out for them,” said Linda Brooks, 64, of Hampton Roads, Va. “He speaks in plain words people can understand.”
In the 45-minute speech, Mr. Clinton paid tribute to a spirit of bipartisan political cooperation that he lamented was now missing. He characterized Mr. Obama as a president who wanted to bring that spirit back, noting that the president appointed Republican cabinet secretaries and former political rivals like Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mr. Clinton’s wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The relationship they built, he said, sent a signal abroad.
“Democracy does not have to be a blood sport,” Mr. Clinton said. “It can be an honorable enterprise.”
The arrival here by Mr. Clinton had the feel of a valedictory, particularly as Mr. Obama arrived on stage at the end of the speech, while thousands of Democrats here thundered their approval. It was, perhaps, a capstone in the political career of Mr. Clinton, who was delivering his eighth speech to a Democratic National Convention.
Mr. Clinton offered a comprehensive, even exhaustive, assessment of Mr. Obama’s first-term priorities, from the auto bailout to the health care law. Brandishing statistics with a familiar vigor, he laid out a case that each of Mr. Obama’s initiatives had met the Republican litmus test: leaving Americans better than four years ago.
“Is the president satisfied? Of course not, but are we better off than we were when he took office?” Mr. Clinton said, pausing as the crowd roared in approval. He added, “The answer is yes.”
Mr. Clinton used the successful economic record of his presidency to offer an illustration of the magnitude of the problems Mr. Obama inherited when he took office in 2009.
“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” Mr. Clinton said. “No president, not me, not any of my predecessors, could have repaired all of the damage he found in just four years.”
Following the speech by Michelle Obama on Tuesday night, the appearance of Mr. Clinton was the highlight of the convention’s second night and underscored the tight nature of the presidential race. He was invited by Mr. Obama himself, who asked him earlier this summer to become more involved in his re-election campaign.
It was in many ways a poignant evening, in part because it marked the full reconciliation of the two most popular Democrats of the past 30 years, but also because Mr. Clinton has been increasingly talking about his own mortality.
Mr. Clinton’s voice was hoarse, as it has often been through his career, but that seemed to do little though to tamp down his energy, enthusiasm or appeal to the crowd.
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