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Bill Clinton Forms Barack Obama's More Perfect Union

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Fleischer said he was "sorrowful about it."

But Democrats were amused.

"It is no accident that Democrats celebrate our past president, while Republicans virtually banished theirs," gloated New York Senator Chuck Schumer as he celebrated the fact that Clinton would follow him on Wednesday night's convention program.

Political parties have always had complicated relationships with their former presidents, especially if those commanders-in-chief leave (or are voted out of) office at a young enough age to require invites to the quadrennial conventions where their successors are nominated and renominated.

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From 1936 to 1964, Republicans had to figure out how to manage Herbert Hoover and unsettling memories he evoked of an insufficient response to the Great Depression. And it is no secret that Democrats have struggled with the question of how to recognize Jimmy Carter in the years since his defeat in 1980, initially out of a sense that he was associated with tough economic times and later because of his courageous advocacy on the international stage.

On the other hand, Democrats made Harry Truman an iconic figure, as Republicans did Ronald Reagan.

But never has the ex-president dichotomy been better summed up than in the past two weeks.

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Bush did not have a ticket to the stadium.

Clinton was calling the plays -- for the Obama campaign and, perhaps, for America.

"My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in," he explained, in his role as teacher-in-chief...

"If you want a 'you're on your own,' winner-take-all society you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities-- a 'we're all in it together' society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If you want every American to vote and you think it's wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama. If you think the president was right to open the doors of American opportunity to young immigrants brought here as children who want to go to college or serve in the military, you should vote for Barack Obama. If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American Dream is alive and well, and where the United States remains the leading force for peace and prosperity in a highly competitive world, you should vote for Barack Obama."

Clinton had the crowd, as Obama will have to have them -- not just Thursday night but through November.

And Clinton closed Wednesday night's speech as George Bush never could.

Clinton roared toward the conclusion of his address with a declaration and a call: "We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor -- to form..."

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And the crowd concluded: ..."a more perfect union."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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