President Obama has a tough act to follow when he addresses the Democratic National Convention (DNC) this evening. The featured speaker on Wednesday, former President Bill Clinton, made what some have called the best pitch for an Obama second-term—a better pitch, in fact, than even his campaign has made.
Either way, the 40-minute, policy-heavy address electrified the DNC.
Here’s what people are saying about today:
His facts were mostly correct.
Associated Press fact-checkers hammered GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan last week
for telling a few tall-tales during his speech to the Republican National Convention. The AP didn’t spare Clinton
, noting that he stretched the truth on claims of Obama’s bipartisanship, health care savings thanks to Obamacare, and his own economic credentials as president. However, Bloomberg News
stressed that most of the other big points—particularly the one in which he compared job growth under Republican and Democratic administrations—were true.
The TV pundits—even one from Fox News—praised it.
When the speech ended, commentators from CNN and, predictably, MSNBC lavished praise upon the former president
. Wolf Blitzer was like a teenager with a crush: “I've been watching this president ... going back to 1992 when I was CNN's White House correspondent. This may have been the best speech I have ever heard Bill Clinton deliver over all these years.” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell used the word “extraordinary,” while ABC News Senior Washington Editor Rick Klein tweeted
: “This speech was a living, breathing organism. The crowd, the hall, the speech, one.” (Perhaps he meant a different “o” word.) Even Fox News’s Brit Hume described President Clinton as “the most talented politician [he's] ever covered and the most charming man [he's] ever met … No one in my view can frame an argument more effectively than he can.”
It wasn’t perfect.
A glance at Twitter on Wednesday evening showed a number of “Best speech ever” tweets; however, the address drew some criticism for its length. Fox commentators noted that it ran long—40 minutes—with Charles Krauthammer referring to it
as “one of the strangest nomination speeches ever given.” He called it “sprawling, undisciplined, and truly self-indulgent.” Meanwhile, Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative website Red State
, stressed that asking the audience whether they’re better off now than they were four years ago was a “serious problem.” He explained: “The Romney campaign and outside groups are going to use that. The Democrats, trying to paint the GOP as out of touch, are increasingly out of touch or just denying reality. That’s going to hurt them. Bill Clinton, in that one moment, undermined Barack Obama’s whole re-election effort.”
Speakers can learn from the Clinton address.
Media trainer Brad Phillips referred to the speech
as a “true oratorical masters class that all public speakers … should study.” Phillips dismissed the argument about its length, noting that the audience “appeared rapt and fully engaged” during the entirety of the address. “Part of the credit for that belongs to his delivery technique,” he explained. “He was big in some moments and small in others. He used big gestures (including pointing, which is typically considered rude but worked for him). He used humor immediately prior to delivering devastating sound bites at his opponents’ expense. He introduced each new point with a clear transition phrase that made it easy for the audience to follow along (example: ‘Let’s talk about the debt.’). And, for what it’s worth, it looked like he wanted to be there.” Meanwhile, James Fallows, a former speechwriter for President Jimmy Carter, pointed out in The Atlantic
that Clinton’s speech succeeded “because he treats listeners as if they are smart.”
Clinton distracted from a potential PR nightmare. Boos rang out from the floor of the DNC on Wednesday
after the party inserted language about God into its party platform and declared that Jerusalem is the capitol of Israel. Republicans, including Mitt Romney, attacked the party for its failure to include these items in the first place. “I find that one more example of Israel being thrown under the bus by the president,” he told Fox News
. “I think it’s a very sad day.” The position and the acrimony among delegates threatened to spoil the party in Charlotte, until Clinton took the stage. The speech—and the image of Obama hugging Clinton after the address—stole the spotlight from the platform controversy.