CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Bill Clinton took center stage Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention in hopes of persuading middle-class voters that Barack Obama could turn a troubled economy around the same way the former president did two decades ago.
The 42nd president remains hugely popular among Democrats, and his speech was hotly anticipated by delegates yearning for a full-throated defense of Obama’s economic policies after months of attacks by Republicans on the No. 1 issue in the presidential race. Obama watched Clinton’s speech from the arena.
“He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long, hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for the innovators,” said Clinton, who was joined on stage by Obama at the end of the convention speech.
Clinton argued that many of the problems continuing to plague the economy stemmed from previous Republican administrations and that it’s unreasonable to expect a total recovery in one term.
Republicans, he said, are arguing that they “left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in,” Clinton said. “I like the argument for President Obama’s reelection a lot better.”
Clinton’s endorsement was meant to signal a “good economy seal of approval” for Obama, a promise that Obama’s policies will bring back the peace and prosperity of the 1990s, when a booming economy created millions of jobs, stocks soared, and a flood of tax revenues helped balance the federal budget for the first time in a generation.
It came from a man who arrived slowly, even grudgingly, at Obama’s side after first watching his wife lose a hard-fought battle for the 2008 Democratic nomination, then had to watch Obama coast to a solid majority that had twice eluded Clinton.
But the two have grown closer, and Clinton’s warm embrace Wednesday signaled not only his support, but his belief that he and his family’s future are tied up in Obama’s. And as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton is now one of the most popular members of the Obama administration and is not involved in politics. On Wednesday, as the convention convened, she landed in East Timor on a six-nation tour of Asia.
Clinton, who served from 1993 to 2001, came into office at the end of a recession and is credited by some for helping the nation achieve a budget surplus. With millions still out of work and trillion-dollar deficits sending the national debt soaring, Obama is looking for Clinton to vouch for his approach. The nearly 6,000 delegates saw a series of videos about small-business successes and the auto industry recovery and heard from former employees at companies controlled by Bain Capital, a private equity firm founded and run by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“I don’t think Mitt Romney is a bad man,” said one of those employees, Randy Johnson. “I don’t fault him for the fact that some companies win and some companies lose. That’s a fact of life. What I fault him for is making money without a moral compass. I fault him for putting profits ahead of working people like me. But that’s just Romney economics.”