Readers know my personal disdain for Bill Clinton. But longtime readers will also know I have always defended his solid centrist, smart record in office and defended him against his most over-reaching enemies. Tonight, I think, was one of the best speeches he has ever given. It was a direct, personal and powerful endorsement of Obama. But much, much more than that: it was a statesman-like assessment of where this country is and how desperately it needs a real change toward reform and retrenchment at home and restoration of diplomacy, wisdom and prudence abroad. Yes, he nailed it with this line:
"People around the world have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power."
I don't buy his evisceration of everything the Republican party has done in the last quarter century. I think the GOP did a great deal to rescue this country in the 1980s and early 1990s. In fact, I think Clinton would have failed as a president without the foil of the Gingrich GOP. But since 2000, the worst aspects of Republicanism have crowded out its once necessary virtues. The reflexive impulse to use force over diplomacy, to use aggression over persuasion, to spend and borrow with no concern for the future, and to violate sacred principles such as the eschewal of torture with no respect for the past: these must not just be left behind. They have to be repudiated.
The United States needs this repudiation, as does the world. McCain, alas, cannot provide it. He may once have. But his party is too far gone, and his moment passed. His use of fear and deception and brattish contempt in this campaign have sealed the deal for me. But Clinton reminded all of us of what is more broadly at stake. He did it with passion and measure and eloquence. And surpassing intelligence.
We've seen the worst of Bill Clinton these past few months, Tonight, we saw the best. And it's mighty good.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A Clinton Masterpiece
Andrew Sullivan shares his initial reaction of the speech tonight by Bill Clinton: