The Voice of Reason has entered the presidential election debate at last. And it comes from the only man in America with the credibility to make it stick.
Yes, that Bill Clinton. The one they impeached, remember? The one his Republican enemies called a liar and a murderer and worse.
Today, he is the revered Elder Statesman, with an approval rating in the stratosphere. Today, the Republicans use his success to run down Obama, to suggest that Obama should be more like him.
And last night he put his credibility on the line for Obama.
He did it with the dynamic power that only Bill Clinton could. Even through the TV screen, you could feel the love in the Democratic Party convention hall . He could have recited passages from the Book of Deuteronomy and still brought down the house.
But Bill Clinton doesn’t do Deuteronomy. He does Numbers.
Recalling the booming years of his presidency, he explained:
People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets in a row… I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.
He added that back home in Arkansas, he was taught that 2 plus 2 make 4. And the Romney plan for America just doesn’t add up.
As someone who has always made his living with words, I am in awe of Clinton’s gift. He didn’t use the word “math,” as those slick-talkin’ city folks would surely have done. He talked about “arithmetic” – the arithmetic we all learned in grade school. If you can’t trust that, what can you trust?
If you don’t believe 2 plus 2 make 4, what do you believe?
How reasonable is that? And it was this reasonable – even benign – approach that he employed as he dismantled the Romney/Ryan proposals and refuted their unfair criticisms of Obama.
You and I knew all along that the Republican campaign is based on “spin,” twisted facts and outright lies. Bill Clinton vindicated us last night. And more, he proved with simple arithmetic that a Romney presidency would be a disaster – not only from a humanitarian point of view but also from an economic perspective.
And he did it with a gentle smile, in a patient, reasonable voice, as if he were explaining simple arithmetic to a fifth-grade class.
But perhaps his most important gift to the Obama campaign – and to America – was his validation of the president as someone we can trust.
You and I believed all along that Obama is America’s hope for the future. Bill Clinton confirmed our belief. And without rancor, without hostility, he assured the unconvinced that it would be OK to go with Obama for another four years.
“I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better,” he said . “Here it is. He inherited a deeply damaged economy. He put a floor under the crash. He began the long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators.”
He urged the millions of American TV viewers who tuned in to hear his speech to vote for Obama-Biden “if you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities, a ‘we’re all in this together’ society.”
But, he added, “if you want a ‘winner take all, you’re on your own’ society, you should support the Republican ticket.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Come to think of it, I couldn’t have said it as well.
Photo above shows Bill Clinton hugging Obama after addressing the Democratic convention last night.