What He Did There

Frank Caliendo does a mean Bill Clinton impression. He says that Bill Clinton is so good, he can convince you of anything. He can stand right in front of you, says Caliendo, and say, “I am not here.” And you will suddenly no longer be able to see Bill Clinton in front of you. He’s just. That. Good.

His speech last night was damned masterful. If anyone give a darn, I’d like to show you why. Let’s go through some of it together, shall we?

What a year we Democrats have had. The primary began with an all-star line up. And it came down to two remarkable Americans locked in a hard-fought contest right to the very end. That campaign generated so much heat, it increased global warming. Now, in the end, my candidate didn’t win. But I’m really proud of the campaign she ran.

I’m not sure how that’s possible, but all right.

Now. Watch him set up for the ol’ one-two.

I am proud that she never quit on the people she stood up for, on the changes she pushed for, on the future she wanted for all our children. And I’m grateful for the chance Chelsea and I had to go all over America to tell people about the person we know and love. Now, I am not so grateful for the chance to speak in the wake of Hillary’s magnificent speech last night. But I’ll do the best I can.

Here it comes.

Last night, Hillary told us in no uncertain terms that she is going to do everything she can to elect Barack Obama. That makes two of us. Actually, that makes 18 million of us…because, like Hillary, I want all of you who supported her to vote for Barack Obama in November.

This was such a graceful, sure way to establish his thesis. But now, for the master stroke that makes Bill Clinton him and us just, well, us.

And here’s why. And I have the privilege of speaking here, thanks to you, from a perspective that no other American Democrat, except President Carter, can offer. Our nation is in trouble on two fronts. The American dream is under siege at home, and America’s leadership in the world has been weakened. Middle-class and low-income Americans are hurting, with incomes declining, job losses, poverty, and inequality rising, mortgage foreclosures and credit card debt increasing, health care coverage disappearing, and a very big spike in the cost of food, utilities, and gasoline.

And our position in the world has been weakened by too much unilateralism and too little cooperation…by a perilous dependence on imported oil, by a refusal to lead on global warming, by a growing indebtedness and a dependence on foreign lenders, by a severely burdened military, by a backsliding on global nonproliferation and arms control agreements, and by a failure to consistently use the power of diplomacy, from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America to Central and Eastern Europe.

Clearly, the job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream and to restore American leadership in the world.

Clinton has now supported his thesis with two simple reasons that he will further support in the rest of his speech, rebuild the American dream, restore American leadership in the world. This is not just good speech-givin’, everybody. This is good speech WRITING. This is such a solid speech because it is built on a solid expository model. The rest of the speech, all of it pretty much calls back to these two simple pillars he’s started with, which lends his speech a clarity that most speakers are not able to achieve. It is mind-blowing.

Notice later in the speech how he will call back to these pillars:

The choice is clear. The Republicans in a few days will nominate a good man who has served our country heroically and who suffered terribly in a Vietnamese prison camp. He loves his country every bit as much as we do. As a senator, he has shown his independence of right-wing orthodoxy on some very important issues.

But on the two great questions of this election—how to rebuild the American dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world—he still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years.

Say what you want about Bill Clinton. Call him a triangulator, a DLC Democrat, spray on him for the Telecommunications Act or for the DOMA. But Bill still knows what time it is and worked it into a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Barack Obama should carry a transcript of this speech in his vest pocket, and that copy should have highlights and notes in the margins. He should make his campaign staff watch it once a week through Nov. 4. This speech should be a guiding manifesto of the Obama campaign. It was a brilliant speech and should provide many effective messages to propel our man to the White House.

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