Former Democratic President Bill Clinton brought the crowd at the Democratic National Convention to its feet last night with a stirring 48-minute-long speech that was reportedly fifteen percent ad lib.
According to Vanity Fair, the address was "something of a epic fight between the former president and the Teleprompter," with Clinton constantly going off script, forcing the teleprompter operator to stop and start the prompter repeatedly to keep pace with him.
According to The Huffington Post, Clinton began his speech after 10:30 p.m. and spoke for close to 50 minutes. His long speech forced CBS and ABC to delay their scheduled news broadcasts.
Vanity Fair summarizes Clinton's most memorable ad libs:
10. “Are you listening Ohio and Michigan?”
9. “This Republican narrative, this alternate universe. . .”
8. “It passes the arithmetic test and more important, it passes the values test.”
7. “We gotta deal with this before it deals with us.”
6. “Democracy does not have to be a blood sport.”
5. “The old economy is not coming back.”
4. “Now you’re having a good time but this is getting serious and I want you to listen.”
3. “This is personal to me.”
2. George Washington was accused of being a “surveyor with a bad set of wooden false teeth.”
1. “You got to admit, it takes some brass to attack a guy for what you did.”The Christian Science Monitor in its comments on Clinton's gold performance, wondered, "Has he (Bill Clinton) become Obama's defender-in-chief?" and adds: "It sure seems like it following the rousing and partisan Wednesday night address to the Democratic National Convention. "
CNN comments on Clinton's speech, pointing out that "Analysts called the speech vintage Clinton, blending an expert's command of figures and details with a down-home touch of language and emotion that made him one of the best communicators and politicians of his era."
In his speech, Clinton attempted to ridicule Republican criticism of Obama's performance, saying:
“In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s reelection 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.”
He defended Obama, citing statistics that compared the rate of job losses during George W. Bush's term to the slow but steadily accumulating job gains under Obama. He acknowledged that the figures were not impressive enough but apologized for Obama, contrasting his parody of the Republican argument with the Democratic, saying:
"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. Conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract, you will feel it.”
He criticized the Republican mentality as a "winner-takes-all-mentality." He said: "If you want a winner-take-all, you're-on-your-own society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility, a we're-all-in-this-together society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."
He spoke about the achievements of the Obama administration, especially the 2010 health care reform law, saying it has decreased health care costs. He said:"We're better off because President Obama fought for health care reform. You bet we are."
He attacked the Republican proposals to overhaul the Medicare and Medicaid programs for seniors, disabled and the lower income, saying, "If that happens, I don't know what those families are going to do. We can't let that happen."
He also attacked the debt reduction plans sketched by Republicans, saying "the numbers don't add up." He argued that the planned cuts in taxes did not detail any new sources of revenue. He said the plans will hurt the middle class and added:"Don't you ever forget when you hear them talking about this that Republican economic policy quadrupled the debt in the 12 years before I took office and doubled the debt in the eight years after I left because it defied arithmetic."
The Huffington Post quotes a few comments by top reporters:
Wolf Blitzer, CNN: "This may have been the best speech I have ever heard Bill Clinton deliver over all these years."
GOP strategist and CNN pundit Alex Castellanos: "Tonight when everybody leaves, lock the door. You don't have to come back tomorrow. This convention is done. This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama."
Fox News' Brit Hume: "No one in my view can frame an argument more effectively than he can."
Anderson Cooper: "The level of detail in the speech was quite surprising...and yet there was a personability."
MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "Bill Clinton came in and beat up the other side...he hit them hard where they were weak... I wouldn't want to be the guy fighting Bill Clinton if the issue is Barack Obama."