The former president reminded voters why he’s often called the most masterful politician of his generation on Wednesday night, stealing the spotlight at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte with a stirring defense of President Barack Obama’s first term in office amidst challenging economic times.
In formally nominating Obama for a second term, the nation’s 42nd president blistered the philosophy of Republican Party standard bearer Mitt Romney while accusing the GOP of ideological rigidity and an unwillingness to compromise.
The relationship between Clinton and Obama has proven shaky at times in the past, even recently. But all that was put aside for nearly 50 minutes on Wednesday evening as Clinton made a stirring case as for why the country was “clearly better off” than it was the day Obama was sworn into office.
“No president — not me or any of my predecessors — no one could have fully repaired all the damage in just four years,” Clinton said.
Obama, he added, “has laid the foundations for a new modern successful economy, a shared prosperity, and if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it.”
Clinton took the stage just after 10:30 p.m. to a chorus of cheers and applause. Obama walked on stage following his conclusion to acknowledge the work done on behalf of his reelection. The two men shook hands, embraced, smiled and waved to the audience before walking off together. At that point, the roll call of the states began to formalize Obama’s nomination.
Clinton’s speech was the rhetorical and emotional highlight of the second day of the convention, which also featured a powerful primetime address by Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard University professor and Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts.
Displaying the kind of personal charm and folksy style that has always struck a chord with voters, Clinton challenged voters to be aware of the stark choices ahead of them, saying the most important question voters should ask is what kind of country they want in the future.
He used his speech both to defend Obama’s record and to rebut charges aimed at the president during last week’s Republican convention, the most notable of which was Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s criticism of Obama’s $716 billion cut in Medicare as part of the health-care law passed in 2010.
Clinton noted that Ryan has included the same cuts in his budget.
“You know it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing something you did,” the former two-term president said.
He blasted the Republican Party for its policies that favor tax breaks for the wealthy, while increasing the financial burden on the middle class.
“It’s arithmetic. We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double-down on trickle-down,” Clinton said, referring to the preferred GOP policy’s informal name.
The night marked a decidedly new chapter in the relationship between the two presidents, whose relationship had deteriorated greatly during the heated 2008 Democratic primary between and Hillary Clinton.
With thoughts of his own legacy never that far off, Bill Clinton was reportedly even further upset and took it personally when Obama listed Harry Truman as the Democratic president he most wished to emulate during an interview after taking office.
For his part, Clinton had often angered the Obama administration with his inability to stay on script during public appearances. His most notable miscue came in late May, when he said that Romney’s business record at Bain Capital was “sterling.”
But all was quickly forgiven on Wednesday night.
Watch President Bill Clinton’s full DNC 2012 Convention Speech Below: