There are a lot of things you could say about Bill Clinton. You get the bad and the good with the former president. His legislative achievements, the North American Free Trade Agreement, Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell, and the Defense of Marriage Act were flawed policies when he signed them into law. Even Clinton agrees that DADT was not his finest hour.
His personal life was as confounding as any public figure’s in recent memory.
But there’s no disputing the man’s incredible ability to connect with people.
Last night, the former president took to the Democratic National Convention stage with that rare combination of confidence, charm, and magnetic intellect that has always been at the core of his political power. And minutes into the speech, all of the rumblings about the enthusiasm gap among Democrats seemed utterly ridiculous.
Clinton, as only he can, staked out the differences between President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney in a way that was forceful, but minus all the bitter name-calling we heard out of Tampa.
He talked about an economic recovery that worked for everyone, not just those at the upper rung of the ladder. And he took Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to task for his hypocritical attacks on the president regarding cuts to Medicare.
Clinton also didn’t duck or apologize for the Democrats’ brand of ideas. Nor did he run from President Reagan’s famous question: are you better off than you were four years ago? Yes, we’re better off, Clinton said, because Obama pulled us back from the brink of the disaster in which the last Republican president left us.
But the most important question Clinton raised last night had to do with who we are as citizens. What kind of country do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a country where it’s every man for himself? Or do we want to live in a country where we help each other; where government is not a villain, but a powerful partner?