"We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity. We think 'we're all in this together' is a better philosophy than 'you're on your own.'
"Who's right? Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House twenty-eight years, the Democrats twenty-four. In those fifty-two years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!"
Then came the critical comparison -- not to the Republican position of the moment, but to his tenure:
"I understand the challenge we face. I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy. Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don't feel it.- Advertisement -
"I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995. Our policies were working and the economy was growing but most people didn't feel it yet. By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history.
"President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president -- not me or any of my predecessors -- could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you'll renew the president's contract you will feel it.
"I believe that with all my heart."- Advertisement -
Clinton was asking the American people to trust him -- and, by extension, President Obama.
If they do, Obama could be well on his way to becoming only the second Democrat since Franklin Roosevelt to serve two full terms.
Conventions are theatrical events. People applaud even for speeches that don't merit much of a response. But Clinton's nominating address was an epic performance, and it earned thunderous applause from a convention that loved him as much -- perhaps a bit more -- than the one that nominated him in 1992.
This is what former presidents, even those with egos modestly less developed than Clinton's, live for. (And it is certainly what presidents live for when they imagine that, at the next election, a certain former first lady might herself become the commander-in-chief.)
But not every former president is afforded the option.
There was no such opportunity provided the last Republican president. George Bush brought no message to the podium of the national convention that nominated the next Republican presidential contender.
Last week, at the Republican National Convention, the forty-third president was just another political has-been, glancing out from the Jumbotron in a video that wisely kept kept him in the shadows of his slightly more popular father. So flawed was the Bush-Cheney record -- unpopular wars, New Orleans flyovers, burst bubbles, the collapse of the financial sector of the economy and a "corporate-welfare" bailout of the big banks -- that even Republican convention speakers treated him like a political plague. A few speakers, like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, took swipes at wars of whim and assaults on civil liberties. Most speakers avoided even referencing the eight-year period when Bush and Dick Cheney ran the country -- often with absolute majorities in the House and Senate. Even Bush's brother, Jeb, could not bring himself to utter the name "George Bush."
"The smart thing to do is focus on here and now and not give President Obama an opportunity to bring up George Bush's presidency," admitted former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.