Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Master

by Gary Pearce
(visit TalkingAboutPolitics, by Gary Pearce and Carter Wrenn)
Bill Clinton gave this campaign three things it hadn’t seen so far: substance, civility and good old Southern country-boy wit and charm. It was a powerful combination – and a tutorial in political communications.

Where Tampa Republicans spewed venom and vitriol at President Obama, Clinton treated his opponents with kindness, courtesy and respect. Then he eviscerated them with logic, arithmetic and a smile.

Where other Democratic speakers sharpened our political polarization, Clinton staked out center ground where compromise isn’t a dirty word and politics isn’t “blood sport.”

Where political ads blithely ignore facts, Clinton served up an hour-long feast of facts, statistics and reasoned arguments.

Where conventional political wisdom is that you never repeat your opponents’ attacks on you, Clinton took the main Republican attacks on Obama, stated them clearly and then – like a crack lawyer walking the jury through a complex case – demonstrated why they don’t stand up.

And he performed the most elegant takedown of a vice presidential candidate since Lloyd Bentsen told Dan Quayle “you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Analyzing Paul Ryan’s Medicare attack on Obama, Clinton ad-libbed: “It takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”

The video introduction reminded you how much things – and Clinton – have changed in the 20 years since Democrats nominated him for President. The Big Dog shows some age and some dents and dings. He’s leaner from a vegan diet he took up after quadruple-bypass surgery. His voice is raspy, and his hands a bit shaky.

We thought politics were mean back in the 1990s, when Republicans accused the Clintons of having political opponents murdered and Newt Gingrich was busy impeaching Clinton over an extramarital affair while having his own affair. We hadn’t seen anything yet. Still, Clinton and Gingrich (and Erskine Bowles) worked together to give us welfare reform and a balanced budget.

Wednesday night, Clinton did again what he did so well back then. He showed us an alternative to “the brain-dead politics of Washington.”  He taught us that politics can be honorable, constructive and – yes – fun.

One more thing: A shout-out to another Southern politician who can rise above it all, my man Jim Hunt. He gave a tight, focused, optimistic speech about what we’ve done in North Carolina and why Obama should be reelected.

It was good to see these two thoroughbreds on the track again.