The 2012 Campaign Seen Through Bill Clinton’s Eye’s

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s re-election was actually pretty simple — pretty snappy. It went something like this: We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough. So fire him and put us back in.”  – Bill Clinton’s speech at 2012 Democratic National Convention

No doubt Bill Clinton’s comments speaking to the delegates at the Democratic National Convention was on par with Michelle Obama’s as being the most inspiring and revealing speech about President Obama and the challenges he faces from the Republicans.  But unlike the First Lady, Clinton I think more accurately framed the narrative that Americans needs to hear.  Fact checkers can pick at his details but the basic message is sound and in my opinion, represents the reality of who and what Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are all about.

That opening quote of his at the top of this page is perhaps the clearest synopsis I’ve seen yet of the  GOP’s strategy if they regain the oval office.  Line after line of Clinton’s convention speech was spot on and laconic.  It was not laden with the legalese that lawyers and politicians hiding something often use and it was in this folksy vernacular that gives it its strongest appeal

In the Romney/Ryan 5-point plan to fix the economy there is nothing outlined that suggest how they will achieve what he proposes.  In fact, the proposals are so generic that you can just as easily extrapolate them over to the Democratic platform.

  1. Make America energy independent
  2. Skills training for workers to meet future needs
  3. Forge new trade agreements
  4. Cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget.
  5. Champion small businesses by reducing taxes and simplifying and modernizing regulations.

It can honestly be said that though Obama’s speech was only slightly more specific on how he would achieve his goals, he was, in the words of Slate’s John Dickerson, far more [straight-talking] than his Republican rival”.

Romney and Ryan talked about hard choices, but only in the abstract, never really pointing out that it was the people who would have to endure the hard results of those choices. Obama was more up front. Restoring the middle-class dream would require sacrifice and struggle from everyone, the president said. “The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place.” This speech was more like the one he gave on election night in Chicago: hard, clear-eyed, and earthbound.

Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney wanted points at their convention for the promise that they would tackle hard truths once they got into office. Obama wanted points for already having embraced hard truths. “I won’t pretend the path I’m offering is quick or easy. I never have. You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth.”   SOURCE  

You can read the full 68 pages of the GOP platform to get the details on this but Clinton puts it more succinctly and without all of the lipstick and lace.

“they want to do the same old policies that got us in trouble in the first place. They want to cut taxes for high- income Americans, even more than President Bush did. They want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts. They want to actually increase defense spending over a decade $2 trillion more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend it on. And they want to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor children.”

Regarding that part about the $2 trillion extra they claim the Pentagon requested without knowing what it was going to be spent on, a CNN Money report back in May confirmed this and stated that this “lack of detail means that Romney’s claim of moving toward a balanced budget requires a great deal of trust.”

The Romney/Ryan ticket does indeed rely on voters to “just trust us” while they try to redirect the argument back to their talking point about how Obama has failed to keep his promises made to the American people back in 2008.  One of those promises Romney claims was when the “newly elected President Obama told America that if Congress approved his plan to borrow nearly a trillion dollars, he would hold unemployment below 8 percent.” debunked this notion on more than one occasion as it was made by various other Republican leaders.  What’s truly interesting though is that of the some 500 promises that Obama is supposed to have made, 83 of them (or 16%) that have yet been kept, according to’s count, are promises that not only are absent in Romney’s criticism of the President but are mostly those that Romney and the GOP support, like not closing GITMO or ending the Bush tax cuts

At the heart of this attack however is that Obama has failed to resolve our great economic recession in less than 4 years in office.  Though his efforts to reshape the economy have misfired some of the times and many American’s public finances are suffering, writers for The Economist say holding the president solely responsible for our current state isn’t an accurate assessment.

To say Obama blew it “is not a fair judgment on Mr Obama’s record, which must consider not just the results but the decisions he took, the alternatives on offer and the obstacles in his way. Seen in that light, the report card is better. His handling of the crisis and recession were impressive.”    SOURCE  

Those “obstacles in his way” mentioned by The Economist are the recalcitrant GOP who have opposed nearly every policy and piece of legislation put forth by the Obama administration since the Republicans won a majority in the House back in 2010.  Long before that however he’s been attacked by the corporate-backed TEA Party who lost sight of those responsible for the bailout of America’s financial institutions and what caused their unraveling that led to the worst recession since the early 1930’s.  Any actions perceived to address our economic woes by the GOP have been guided too strongly by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell’s Party fiat that placed a “top political priority”  on making President Obama a one-term president.  He reiterated this on FOX News seven months later stating that it was still his major objective “along with every active Republican in the country.” 

In their abuse of the filibuster and delaying tactics to block Presidential appointments through the advise and consent procedure, Republicans have aimed “to embarrass the president and hobble his ability to run the executive branch”, according to the authors of the book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With The New Politics of Extremism by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein (p. 100)  In so doing they can make the president appear incompetent to the public and malign him on news shows to create a poor image to voters.

… since 2006, but especially since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the filibuster is more often a stealth weapon, which minority Republicans use not to highlight an important national issue but to delay and obstruct quietly on nearly all matters, including routine and widely supported one.  It is fair to say that this pervasive use of the filibuster has never before happened in the history of the Senate.  Mann and Ornstein – p.89  (emphasis mine)

The Party has been further aided in undermining Obama’s presidency with the Citizens United decision that lets huge sums of money into political campaigns.  Karl Rove’s super Pac, American Crossroads GPS, for example told potential donors that they would conduct “in-depth research on congressional expense account abuses”, to blame Democrats for “failed border controls” and to frame the BP oil spill as “Obama’s Katrina.”  Then of course there has been the complicity of many news outlets that promote Republican talking points or fail to do journalistic due diligence and research many of the claims made by Republican talking heads.

What voters need to take away from this campaign is the understanding of what Obama really did and didn’t promise, which seems to unnerve the GOP candidates.  The promises Obama made in 2008, like the one’s he made last Thursday night, require active participation and the willingness by every capable soul to help in that endeavor.  No one man can do everything alone nor should he be expected to or have blame laid solely at his feet.  It was the understanding that with everyone’s help that such promises could reasonably be achieved.  It is in part those of us who had expectations beyond the realm of reality that are at fault for our disappointment that the economy has not rebounded better than we hoped.

For anyone to assume their job is done once their vote is cast is a level of apathy only slightly higher than one who doesn’t vote at all or chooses not to get involved with the political process in any way.  But even worse are those people who not only sit on their hands but who actively engage in preventing any forward motion, even if they don’t like the guy.  Saying it’s a wrong-headed policy before it’s been given a chance and based only on ideological views is part of the political back-and-forth between political adversaries.  But for those who actively engage in obstructionist practices that stymie those legitimate efforts simply to enhance their own political agenda, borders, in my opinion, close to treason.

That leaves me closing with Bill Clinton who has made the best expression of these unhealthy, hurtful actions by the GOP leadership.

Now, there’s something I’ve noticed lately. You probably have too. And it’s this. Maybe just because I grew up in a different time, but though I often disagree with Republicans, I actually never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate our president and a lot of other Democrats.

When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good. But what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation. What works in the real world is cooperation, business and government, foundations and universities.


Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it.


9 responses to “The 2012 Campaign Seen Through Bill Clinton’s Eye’s

  1. Now that the campaigns are working in full mode….Mitt still does not have anything but “Obama Sucks”. I watched the interview on MTP….the same lame, vague crap he has uttered for 9 months…….if he wins this system is screwed!

  2. After reading your post, I can only surmise that people who’d vote for Romney are just stupid, ignorant, super wealthy, or racist. Ignoring the fact that Obama has done an incredible amount with the mess he inherited could only have those explanations for voting Romney. Seriously – not a single person among us would want to be judged as harshly and unfairly as they have judged Obama. Think about it, people: would you want to be blamed for not quickly fixing a gigantic mess that had been years in the making?

    • Some of these people seem to be fulfilling those immortal lyrics of Simon & Garfunkle’s THE FIGHTER – “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”

  3. Clinton was masterful, and so was Obama in a very different way. I heard one pundit say that following Obama, they should have shut off the lights, locked up the joint, and sent everyone one. This election is over. While I try not to go that far, I certainly surprised and happy at the turn of events. Romney is such an awful campaigner, and well when you have awful ideas, it doesn’t help either.

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