Jennifer Rubin: Clinton gave it the old college try
BILL Clinton, don't get me wrong, was the best speaker Wednesday night. But that is largely because the rest of the evening was atrocious.
Clinton was hoarse, and seemed to holler for no reason at all.
He decried those meanie Republicans of today (the favorite ploy of partisan Democrats is to praise every Republican no longer in office), and he repeated the tropes that Republicans want you to be on your own, want a "winner-take-all" society and want to help only the rich.
At times his defense of President Obama strained credulity: Obama, he said, is bipartisan because he hired Republicans in government jobs and he is willing to work "cooperatively."
The Obama record is so obviously at odds with that sentiment (unilateral action on immigration and on welfare and the refusal to make a deal on entitlements or address the fiscal cliff) that Clinton's argument seemed unserious.
At his most effective, Clinton said no president could have fixed in four years the economy that Obama inherited. And he extolled the belief that America "always comes back."
Unfortunately, Obama promised to fix the economy in his first term. And the Obama recovery is the weakest in history.
The comparison between the two presidents' records was obvious, leaving one to consider if Clinton's mere presence was a reminder of Obama's weaknesses.
Like every other Democratic speaker, Clinton ignored the appalling increase in poverty under this president, a cynical betrayal of liberals' supposed concern for the poor. No empathy or bitten lip is shown for them, or for the more than 8 percent of unemployed Americans (and millions more underemployed or who have stopped looking for work).
The actual results of Obama's policies are a sticky matter, so better to let him defend that himself.
Clinton's Medicare spiel was downright disingenuous, claiming that Obama's $716 billion in Medicare cuts don't affect benefits. But of course, payments to providers will be cut, making treatment less accessible, and a quarter of Medicare Advantage patients will be dropped from the program.
And his welfare explanation was, bluntly, incoherent. He claimed that governors wanted waivers to have recipients work more.
When he said, "Did I make myself clear?" honest listeners would surely have said, "No!"
Mostly, however, Clinton did what he always does: Get lost in the weeds of policies, mixing in facts with half-truths and downright goofy arguments.
Romney's desire to restore Medicare cuts, he claimed, is giving money back to insurance companies.
Umm. Actually it amounts to paying for services seniors want. Has the Democratic Party been defending insurance companies all these years?
After listening to him march through endless policy details, the crowd in Charlotte seemed to tire, and as he continued well past 11 p.m., the TV audience certainly may have drifted off.
The speech went on and on and on, likely sending all but the fawning media off to bed. Clinton is not a disciplined speaker.
Clinton certainly drubbed Republicans, and then - this is Clinton, of course - he bragged about his own deficit-balancing record. It was a pointed reminder that Obama simply isn't Bill Clinton.
Toward the end of the speech, Clinton blew the race card whistle loudly, claiming voter ID laws - which have been blessed by the Supreme Court and in case after case have failed to produce a single minority voter who could not obtain an ID - intend to depress minority voting.
This was Clinton the charlatan and the hyper-partisan. Given how popular voter ID laws are with voters at large, you understand how entirely dependent Obama is in this election on non-white voters.
Mostly, it seemed that Bill was paving the way for a potential Hillary presidential run.
He talked fondly of her, of course, and gave a passing and remarkably vague defense of Obama's foreign policy. He did not mention Israel.
Now, Clinton did sing the praises of lots of government spending. It was a reminder how wedded to big government the Democratic Party has become since Clinton declared the era of big government to be over.
Alas, he did not explain why the economy is still so weak and what Obama would do differently in a second term.
But that is not his fault. Obama hasn't told us.
Rubin is a columnist and blogger for The Washington Post.