The economy that President Barack Obama inherited from Republicans was “a total mess” and he needs another four years in the White House to finishing fixing it, former President Bill Clinton argued Wednesday in his prime time speech at the Democratic National Convention.
The 42nd president of the United States commanded the DNC crowd, framing the upcoming November election as a clear choice between Obama, who he argued would bring “shared prosperity,” and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
“My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in,” Clinton explained. “If you want a you’re-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket. If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we’re-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden.”
Clinton said the GOP’s campaign argument is “pretty simple: ‘We left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up yet, so fire him and put us back in.’” He also said Republicans live in an “alternate universe.”
“I like the argument for President Barack Obama’s re-election a lot better,” Clinton said.
“Here it is: He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, he began a long hard road to recovery and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses and lots of new wealth for innovators.”
Watch a portion of his speech here:
Clinton admitted that the country is not where it needs to be, but argued the country is better off today than it was four years ago when Obama took office. The convention hall rocked with delegates’ applause and cheers as Clinton – unofficial Democratic ambassador-in-chief to anxious voters in a tough economy – worked the crowd and attempted to sway voters.
He sought to rebut every major criticism Republicans have leveled against the president at their own convention last week in Tampa, and said that in fact, since 1961, far more jobs have been created under Democratic presidents than when Republicans sat in the White House – by a margin of 42 million to 24 million.
Clinton accused Republicans of proposing “the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place” and led to a near financial meltdown. Those, he said, include efforts to provide “tax cuts for higher-income Americans, more money for defense than the Pentagon wants and … deep cuts on programs that help the middle class and poor children.”
“As another president once said, ‘There they go again,’” he said, quoting Ronald Reagan, who often uttered the remark as a rebuke to Democrats.
Clinton also took a jab at the Tea Party, saying “the far right that now controls [the Republican] party” seems to “hate” President Obama and are unwilling to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats. Meanwhile, Clinton said Obama is “committed to constructive cooperation” with both parties on issues that will move America forward.
“We are going to keep president Obama on the job,” Clinton added, the crowd erupting and giving him a standing ovation. Chants of “Four more years!” proceeded.
The former president said Republicans want to get rid of financial regulations that will prevent another financial crash and want to make enormous cuts to the budget that help the middle class and “poor children.”
Clinton bragged on President Obama’s health care overhaul, saying millions of people who didn’t have access to health insurance now do thanks to Obamacare. He claimed businesses have received roughly $1 billion in refunds from insurance companies because of the health care law and people ages 19-25 have insurance for the first time because they can be covered on their parents’ plans.
“We can not afford to give the reins to someone who will double down on trickle down,” Clinton said about Romney, before accusing the GOP of disenfranchising poor minority voters with voter ID laws.
Following his DNC keynote speech, Clinton was joined on stage by President Obama and the two posed for the cameras and waved to the cheering members of the audience.
Clinton’s speech marked the seventh convention in a row he has spoken to party delegates, and the latest twist in a relationship with Obama that has veered from frosty to friendly. Whatever the past, the incumbent and his high command looked to the former president to vouch for him when it comes to the economy, his largest impediment to re-election.
Twelve years after leaving office, Clinton retains high popularity in the electorate in general as well as among white men who are dubious about giving Obama a second term in power in an era of slow economic growth and 8.3 percent joblessness.
Watch Clinton’s entire DNC address below:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From page image from AP/J. Scott Applewhite.