By a unanimous vote last night, Barack Obama officially became the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. In an amazing display of grace and unity, and once again erasing tension by standing firmly with her party, Senator Hillary Clinton moved to halt the roll call so that the convention could nominate Barack Obama by acclimation. And so they did, in roaring, celebratory fashion. Obama also made a surprise appearance to accept the nomination.
Within two hours after Hillary Clinton nominated Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton took the stage and removed any lingering questions about whether the Clintons were prepared to support Barack Obama’s candidacy in unison. Addressing his view of the contention – oft expressed by him during the primary season – that Barack Obama is not seasoned enough to be president, Bill Clinton said “[t]he long, hard primary tested and strengthened him. And in his first presidential decision, the selection of a running mate, he hit it out of the park…. Barack Obama is ready to president of the United States.” Bill Clinton went on to spend at least a full third of his speech touting the superior qualifications of Barack Obama, addressing everything from his “remarkable ability to inspire people” to his “clear grasp of foreign policy and national security challenges”.
At times, President Clinton waxed melancholy about the outcome of the primary. “In the end, my candidate didn’t win,” he said, pausing to express pride in the campaign Hillary Clinton ran. But President Clinton placed no qualification on his support for Barack Obama and showed no hesitation when attacking George Bush for leaving America in such a shambles that it will take a visionary leader like Barack Obama to set it back on the right course.
I will never forget the parents of children with autism and other serious conditions who told me on the campaign trail that they couldn’t afford health care and couldn’t qualify their children for Medicaid unless they quit work and starved or got a divorce. Are these the family values the Republicans are so proud of?
Bill Clinton lead a roll call of Bush Administration failures ranging from its disgraceful handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina – which Rear Adm. John Hutson (Ret.) later referred to as an example of “arrogance abroad and incompetence at home” – to “the biggest increase in income inequality since the 1920s.” Clinton categorized the failed Republican agenda as a policy platform 25 years in the making, and wasted no time pointing out that McCain aims to continue that failure into the future.
…on the two great questions of this election – how to rebuild the American dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world – [McCain] still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years. [Starting in 2001, the Republicans] took us from record surpluses to an exploding debt; from over 22 million new jobs to just 5 million; from increasing working families’ incomes to nearly $7,500 a year to a decline of more than $2,000 a year; from almost 8 million Americans lifted out of poverty to more than 5.5 million driven into poverty; and millions more losing their health insurance. Now, in spite of all this evidence, their candidate is actually promising more of the same.
His critique of the Republicans in general, and of John McCain in particular, was blistering in a fashion that only Bill Clinton could deliver, and his embrace of Barack Obama was equally unequivocal. Answering Republican echoes of his earlier claims that Barack Obama was unqualified, Bill Clinton said this:
Sixteen years ago…we prevailed in a hard campaign in which Republicans said I was too young and too inexperienced to be commander-in-chief. Sound familiar? It didn’t work in 1992, because we were on the right side of history. And it will not work in 2008, because Barack Obama is on the right side of history.
And with that, Bill Clinton’s earlier critique was properly placed in the context of someone who had not yet seen Obama’s mettle and who, having now witnessed that mettle, saw in Obama a little bit of himself.
Senator John Kerry, who followed President Clinton, provided a very critical assessment of Senator McCain, pointing to his contradictory stances and further signaling that the Democrats are armed for battle.
Let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain. Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it. Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself.
But Joe Biden, who formally accepted his Vice Presidential nomination last night, provided what was probably the most damning critique of McCain, attacking him in the area that McCain claims is his strongest. “The Administration’s [foreign] policy has been an abysmal failure.” Biden said. “And now, despite being complicit in this catastrophic foreign policy, John McCain says Barack Obama is not ready to protect our national security?” After providing a history lesson detailing the numerous times John McCain has sided with George Bush’s failed foreign policy, Biden said “Again and again, John McCain has been wrong, and Barack Obama is right.”
Last night was a further unveiling of the Democratic strategy to attack John McCain on the issues (rather than use straw-man character assassination attempts like the McCain camp) and demonstrate that his platform represents 4 more years of George Bush. It was also a night to remind America about one of the greatest domestic failures of the Bush Administration – its response to Hurricane Katrina – with at least two speakers referencing that debacle. But more than that, it was a night to demonstrate to America and to the Republicans that the Democrats were united behind their candidate and in their platform of opposition to John McCain. Last night, the Democrats sounded their war cry. Tonight, their warrior takes center stage. Enter Democratic Presidential Nominee Barack Obama…
Here are the speeches: