CHARLOTTE, N.C. » President Barack Obama inherited a wreck of an economy, “put a floor under the crash” and laid the foundation for millions of good new jobs, former President Bill Clinton declared Wednesday night in a rousing Democratic National Convention appeal aimed at millions of hard-pressed Americans yet to decide how to vote.
“He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs,” said Clinton — the last president to see sustained growth, in the 1990s. “Conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract, you will feel it.”
The hall rocked with cheers as Clinton strode onstage to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” his 1992 campaign theme song, and he held the crowd rapt as he drifted off his prepared remarks for about 50 minutes.
To the audience of thousands of Democrats packed into their convention hall, he said of Obama, “I want to nominate a man who is cool on the outside but who burns for America on the inside.”
The speech was vintage Clinton, overlong for sure, insults delivered with a folksy grin, references to his own time in office and his wife Hillary, all designed to improve Obama’s chances for re-election in an era of painfully slow economic growth and 8.3 percent unemployment.
Clinton also preached bipartisanship and a pullback from politics as “blood sport” — this near the end of back-to-back conventions that feasted on rhetorical red meat and even as he ripped the Republican agenda as a throwback to the past, a “double-down on trickle-down” economics that assumes tax cuts for the wealthy will help everyone down the ladder.
Clinton spoke as Obama’s high command worked to control the political fallout from an embarrassing retreat on the party platform, just two months from Election Day in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Under criticism from Romney, the Obama camp abruptly rewrote the day-old document to insert a reference to God and to declare that Jerusalem “is and will remain the capital of Israel.” Some delegates objected loudly, but Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, presiding in the largely empty hall, ruled them outvoted. White House aides said Obama had personally ordered the changes, but they did not disclose whether he had approved the earlier version.
The convention hall rocked with delegates’ applause and cheers as Clinton — unofficial Democratic ambassador-in-chief to anxious voters in a tough economy — strode onstage to sounds of “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow,” his 1992 campaign theme song.
He sought to rebut every major criticism Republicans have leveled against the president at their own convention last week in Tampa, and said that in fact, since 1961, far more jobs have been created under Democratic presidents than when Republicans sat in the White House — by a margin of 42 million to 24 million.
Clinton accused Republicans of proposing “the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place” and led to a near financial meltdown. Those, he said, include efforts to provide “tax cuts for higher-income Americans, more money for defense than the Pentagon wants and … deep cuts on programs that help the middle class and poor children.”
“As another president once said, ‘There they go again,”’ he said, quoting Ronald Reagan, who often uttered the remark as a rebuke to Democrats.
Obama flew into his convention city earlier in the day and arrived in the hall for Clinton’s speech. He arranged to join the former president onstage afterward in a made-for-television joint appearance.”In Tampa the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was pretty simple: ‘We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in,”’ Clinton said.
“I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators.”
On an unsettled convention day, aides scrapped plans for the president to speak to a huge crowd in a 74,000 seat football stadium, citing the threat of bad weather in a city that has been pelted by heavy downpours in recent days.
“We can’t do anything about the rain. The important thing is the speech,” said Washington Rey, a delegate from Sumter, S.C.
That and the eight-week general election campaign about to begin between Obama and Republican challenger Romney, who spent his second straight day in Vermont preparing for this fall’s debates with Obama.