Thursday, September 6, 2012

Bill Clinton, rhetorician

Last week Paul Ryan delivered the equivalent of a prosecutor’s opening statement against the Obama administration. Quite naturally, the Democrats complained about factual errors (several of which turned out to be errors on the part of the fact-checkers, not Ryan).

If Paul Ryan acted as the prosecutor, last night Bill Clinton played the role of the defense attorney. And he did it masterfully.

I didn’t start paying attention to politics until the end of the 1990s, so I don’t remember Clinton’s campaigns particularly well. But he proved last night what a masterful politician he is.

Clinton attempted to do what may said couldn’t be done--defend President Obama’s record. (Naturally, in the process he made his share of omissions and distortions--it is a political speech after all.) But he did something else that few politicians are able to do--he masterfully framed each question in Obama’s favor and painted his opponents as ignorant opportunists.

Yet he did not come across as mean spirited. Instead, several times he nearly had me laughing at the Republicans’ ignorance. He tacked Obama’s weaknesses--the economy, the debt, failure to lead--head on and attempted to turn them into Obama’s strengths. He painted Obama as the sympathetic character. And he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

I don’t remember Clinton’s original campaigns, but after seeing him in action it is no surprise that he won two terms. Rhetorically, his speech last night was very impressive.

I can disagree with his substance, but am a little in awe of his style. Bill Clinton nearly made me want to vote for Obama.

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