“Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States“. – Bill Clinton
By Joseph J. Schatz
Bill Clinton, whose primary season sniping at Barack Obama angered some of the party faithful, blessed the Democratic nominee by endorsing Obama’s qualifications to be commander in chief and restore the nation’s international standing.
The former president drew a standing ovation in the packed convention hall Wednesday evening when he noted late in his speech that in his own 1992 race “We prevailed in a campaign in which the Republicans said I was too young and too experienced to be commander in chief. Sound familiar? It didn’t work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it won’t work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history.”
Bill Clinton’s speech was part two of an effort by the former First Family to heal the wounds of a hard-fought primary campaign and unite Democrats behind Obama despite lingering resentment among some supporters of runner-up Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
Earlier Wednesday, Hillary Clinton moved to suspend the roll call vote of convention delegates and make Obama the party’s nominee by acclamation. On Tuesday night, she delivered her own endorsement of Obama during a convention speech and added a ringing repudiation of his Republican opponent, John McCain.
“The campaign generated so much heat it increased global warming,” Bill Clinton said. “In the end, my candidate didn’t win. Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she’s going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us.”
Clinton basked in a thunderous ovation after he was introduced, but delegates and onlookers held back a bit during the early portion of his address, as Clinton mixed a defense of Obama’s foreign policy judgment with an attack on Republican economic policies and implicit praise of the economic success the nation enjoyed during his administration.
“Our nation is in trouble on two fronts: The American dream is under siege at home, and America’s leadership in the world has been weakened,” Clinton said.
“Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” Clinton said, gaining momentum. “Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States”.
During the primary and caucus campaigning, Bill Clinton drew criticism for remarks some considered intemperate, racially tinged or an effort to suggest that Obama brought a rather thin resume into the presidential race.
His Wednesday speech appeared designed to heal those wounds.
“I think he did what he had to do,” said Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, N.J., and an early Obama supporter. “His message was clear. Barack Obama is ready to be president on day one.”
Rep. Keith Ellison, a staunch Obama supporter during the primaries, said he thought the former president “closed the deal.”
“Let’s face it. Things got a little rough in the primaries,” Ellison said. “I was not sure what to expect.”
Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-Mo., predicted that the speech would re-establish Clinton’s role as a party leader on international affairs.
And Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., said the former president will be an important factor in Obama’s success in wooing Hispanic voters. “Bill Clinton was the father of the modern Democratic Party. Now, the party is changing but Clinton will change with it.”
“It was the typical Bill Clinton style of addressing the individual needs of real families and real people and the theme throughout it was connecting it directly to Barack Obama,” said J.P. Barone, a party official from White Bear Lake, Minn. “The analogy to his own time 16 years ago in office – there couldn’t be a more thorough and complete transition to the Barack Obama generation.”