Were Democrats Actually Listening to What Clinton Said?

I liked Clinton's speech last night, though I don't know if I'd go along with Michael Tomasky's feeling that it was "the best political speech more or less ever". I especially liked a section Tomasky didn't mention, except that it was presumably covered by his observation that "There wasn't a thing he didn't touch on, and there wasn't a thing he didn't just blast out of the park."

And so here's what I want to say to you, and here's what I want the people at home to think about. When times are tough and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good. But what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation. (Cheers, applause.) ...

One of the main reasons we ought to re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to constructive cooperation. (Cheers, applause.) Look at his record. Look at his record. (Cheers, applause.) Look at his record. He appointed Republican secretaries of defense, the Army and transportation.

Hmm. Clinton rightly attacks Republicans for their refusal to cooperate--but I sure didn't hear him tell Obama to stop trying. But that's exactly what progressive Democrats have been saying from the start. Confrontation is the only way. Isn't that the line? The best political speech more or less ever, according to Tomasky, repudiates the strategic advice progressives are pressing on Obama.

Speechcraft-wise, David Maraniss's assessment seemed on the mark to me.

Even as his speech went on and on toward the 48-minute mark, blasting way past his allotted time, Clinton did not seem rambling so much as direct and fast and eager. His voice grew more powerful if scratchy, his signature gesticulations became more frequent -- the thumb point, the finger point and finger roll, the open-handed can-you-believe-it lament, the raised eyebrows -- as he made the case for Obama and against the Republicans and moved through the issues one after another, from health-care reform to the auto industry bailout to Medicare to tax and budget cuts.

In classic Clinton style, the more he got going, the less inclined he was to follow his printed text, ad-libbing his way through a series of knowing asides such as, "I know; I get it; I've been there." He took his listeners on a kaleidoscopic tour of recent political history and deep into the Clintonian method, a modern-day variation of the Socratic method in which every question is worthy of consideration, and every opposing argument is given its due before being shredded.

Incidentally... Even though I liked the speech it annoyed me to see a lot of "fact-checkers" rather blithely giving it their stamp of maximum approval. Clinton's a politician; he spins; he just does it unusually well.

For instance, reporters at Bloomberg examined Clinton's arresting claim about employment growth under Republican and Democratic administrations--since 1961, 24 million jobs added under Republican presidents, 42 million under Democrats--and found it to be true. I object not because I disagree with the answer--the numbers are correct, just as Bloomberg says--but because it's such a careless question.

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