August 28, 2008 1 Comment
Yesterday was an amazing day in the history of the United States of America. Yesterday we witnessed something that was almost beyond words, a stirring, amazing scene that reminds us of the possibilities and hope of this country; Something that defies history and flies in the face of common wisdom; Something momentous and generation defining; Something many of us never thought we’d see in our lifetime.
Yeah, the Democrats nominated a black guy as their candidate, but that doesn’t surprise me one bit, as it has been the only rational option for more than a year now.
What I am talking about is the even more amazing, more groundbreaking, more alert-the-media surprise moment of history: Bubba passed the torch. And sounded like he meant it.
Wednesday night saw an emotional and stirring Democratic Convention that featured Hillary Clinton herself moving for the acceptance by acclamation the nomination of Barack Obama (a move that sent Pelosi scrambling to the podium so fast you’d think they offered free botox to the first one at the mic, launched the O’Jay’s “Love Train” from the speakers (love that Philly Soul!) and set off a massive, hand-holding celebration that put her words from the night before into reality), John Kerry reminding the Democrats why he lost, vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden giving an emotional telling of his amazing life’s story, a plea to the middle class and openly attacking the Republicans, followed by a surprise appearance by the candidate himself, who ad libbed a few shout-outs to the other speakers.
But the night belonged to Bubba. The former president and Democratic Top Dog took the stage to Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop,” (his campaign theme that not only carried him to the White House, but convinced the band to get back together) garnered a hero’s welcome that had him asking the jubilant and adoring crowd to settle so they wouldn’t take all his time and then delivered the kind of talk that made his name: a brilliant, soaring bit of oratory that not only framed the entire election, but answered almost every question the Clintons raised but Hillary failed to answer the night before.
Tuesday may have been all about the Cult of Hillary and her accomplishments, but Bubba made sure Wednesday was about the future and about Barack Obama. And he blew the roof off the dump.
Using his unique position and perspective as the last president to actually do a halfway decent job of things, Bill Clinton, in no uncertain terms, made sure everybody knew that despite earlier wishy-washy statements “Barack Obama is the man for this job.”
He said it three times just to make sure you got it (and probably to make up for Hillary’s total lack of positive things to say about the guy she referred to last week as her opponent):
I say to you: Barack Obama is ready to lead America and to restore American leadership in the world.
Barack Obama is ready to honor the oath, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States.
He also lofted a few immaculate turns of phrase, displaying again why he is considered one of the greatest orators of our age:
Most important of all, Barack Obama knows that America cannot be strong abroad unless we are first strong at home.
People the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power.
Man, that’s nice.
He then launched into the laundry list of Republican fuck-ups, mistakes and embarrassments from the economy to Katrina and everything in between, making sure to end with the candidate’s name:
And Barack Obama will do better than that.
Hillary couldn’t do that. She couldn’t bring herself to plug Obama as anything more than a “Democrat,” and went miles and miles without mentioning his name.
But the crowd responded to Bubba with a “Yes we can!” chant, prompting the former president to once again show off his skills by ad libbing “yes he can, but first we have to elect him!”
The man is good.
He continued the laundry list and history lesson about how badly the Republicans have fucked everything up, reminding us of the peace and prosperity that dominated the Clinton years and how quickly the policies the Republicans had always hoped to enact destroyed so much after they won control of Congress and the White House.
It was brilliant because it was right on and still managed to be folksy, as witnessed by his simple message for the Republicans: “Thanks, but no thanks,” delivered with all the down home humbleness that made Bubba one of the most popular ever to wander the Oval Office.
He also linked his legacy to Obama’s, attempting to negate all those things he himself said about Obama being young and inexperienced, by reminding the room that they used to say the same thing about him and he did OK.
Then, in closing, Clinton officially passed the torch, tying in Obama with the very image that made Clinton, the very mantra, the essence of his own story:
Barack Obama will lead us away from the division and fear of the last eight years back to unity and hope.
So if, like me, you believe America must always be a place called Hope, then join Hillary and Chelsea and me in making Barack Obama the next president of the United States.
For fans of political oratory it was a slam dunk and could not have been done better (unless it had been a year ago, but politics is politics…).
By the end of the night, when Obama himself made a surprise appearance and returned the favor, praising both of the Clintons, it finally looked like the Democrats were united behind their newly minted candidate.
And while I will never count out the ability of the Democrats to lose an election, the show they put on last night showed America a finally-unified party and laid out in no uncertain terms the failures and foibles of the past eight years.
And that’s before the candidate himself, perhaps the only guy in the country who gives a better speech than Bubba, has a chance to speak.
But it is now official, both of the Major Families of the Democratic Party, the Kennedys and the Clintons, have endorsed Barack Obama and passed the mantle of their legacies – the young, idealistic, hopeful leader – to the candidate.
The Dems appear to be a family again, all aboard the Love Train.
And the Republicans better have some serious shit planned for St. Paul next week or they are in trouble…