The Life of the Party
What Bill Clinton could add to the Obama re-election effort.
They are now the most famous words he has said in his presidency. And oh, how he wishes they weren't.
***There was lots of chatter this week about the decision to have Bill Clinton speak in prime time on the penultimate night of the Democratic Convention. Is it a sign of panic? Would the president give Big Dawg such a prominent spot if he wasn't nervous? Does it gall him to ask for help from the guy who said of his 2008 candidacy, "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen"?
But all this kind of misses the point.
The central fact of Bill Clinton is that he is really good at politics. And he has every reason to want to give a really good speech—to show he's still got it like nobody else, to demonstrate he's still the most beloved figure in the party, to do his wife proud. And of course to rub Mr. Obama's nose in it.
The central fact of the Obama campaign is that they have not yet made a case for re-election. They haven't come up with a reasoned argument in common words that can be repeated by normal people. Ask an Obama supporter to boil it all down and he'll flail around and then say: "But Romney is awful" or "The Republicans are bad."
The White House and the campaign have not been able to make a case for their guy. They're just trying to make a case against the other guy.
But Mr. Clinton might actually be able to make the case, and he just may do it by making a case for the Democratic Party.
No one has talked about the Democratic Party in a long time. Democrats don't talk about it because they feel they're on the run, and have brand problems. The president doesn't talk about it either, which is remarkable. You'd think he'd want to rally the troops. But he doesn't seem to love his party all that much.
Mr. Clinton does, though, and that ol' man, with his white hair and reading glasses, can bring you back. He can ring. He can walk you back to FDR and JFK and Bobby, he can remind you why the party exists, what it's done, what it has always meant to do.