Bill Clinton Stole Barack Obama's Thunder in Charlotte

President Obama talked at the delegates while Clinton talked to them.


There were all kinds of Democrats at the party's just-concluded national nominating convention. And they weren't, despite the party leadership's best efforts to put on a happy face, all of one mind. So it's interesting that the divisions among them didn't get more attention, that the differing visions they had on policy and issue of governance were not more fully explored.

First there were the moderate Democrats, the ones like former President Bill Clinton who understand money and markets. Clinton's speech was by far the best given in Charlotte, N.C. Even if it did run a bit on the long side, the former chief executive showed why he is so good at connecting with voters. He talked to them, not at them, gave them specifics on policy matters that—while they still have to be sifted through by the fact checkers—made a convincing case for why he should still be president.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

Of course the 22nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes that impossible, so Clinton did the next best thing he could: He gave Barack Obama a full-throated endorsement, calling for his election to a second term while, at the same time, managing to upstage him.

Obama, by contrast, came across as the ice man. In a noticeable contrast to Clinton, he talked at the delegates while laying out the case for his second term. He threw around a lot of numbers that made it sound like he was laying out a detailed plan. It wasn't.

[See a Slideshow of the 12 Most Memorable Political Convention Speeches.]

It also didn't help that the speech, which was supposed to have been given outdoors in a football stadium, was moved indoors ostensibly because of the possibility of bad weather. No one is buying that excuse. It's pretty clear that it was a fear of empty chairs, not rain that created the need for a change in venue.

Most interesting was that it was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who had something resembling a floor fight over the platform. No matter how it happened, whether it was accidental or deliberate, the word "God" and a section declaring support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel were omitted from the document that was sent to the floor.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Democratic Party.]

It took three tries to get it back in, with a loud chorus of "boos" accompanying the efforts to add them back in. No one watching believed the required two thirds of the delegates voiced approval for the change, negating the need for a roll call of the states. In the end, Chicago-style politics reared its ugly head once again as permanent convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa, the mayor of Los Angeles, simply announced there were enough votes in support and rammed the changes through.

The optics of the floor fight is not going over well in Middle America. While the first night of the convention was a glowing success, it is the floor fight and the Clinton speech that people are talking about and that people will remember as the best and worst of it. This is not helpful to the president's desire for a second term. If anything, these two things are a distraction as they remind people that the party with "Forward" as its 2012 campaign slogan had to reach backwards 12 years to find something or someone for people to get excited about.

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