Indeed, if there was one message to take away from President Obama’s convention speech it was not the one of hope or change that he has articulated in the past, but the reality that he is most certainly not Bill Clinton.
I have yet to see or hear any negative commentary on President Clinton’s Wednesday night speech and for good reason. He was simply fantastic. He showed the DNC crowd, and those watching at home, how to substantively articulate President Obama’s agenda and made the case for the president better than he has ever managed to do for himself.
President Clinton was inclusive and bipartisan, eschewing class warfare in favor of a unified vision for the country. He spoke movingly of the need for expanding economic opportunity and growth. For the first time, President Clinton presented a clear and accessible juxtaposition between the Obama approach and the Romney/Ryan way of doing things.
In contrast to President Clinton’s spirited defense of President Obama, Obama’s speech was nothing more than predictable. It lacked the excitement and emotion that Obama has come to rely on since he was thrust into the spotlight at the 2004 DNC convention.
As one of the advisers in the president’s circle told me immediately after the speech, Obama’s speech was straightforward and pedestrian. There was nothing new, nothing bold and nothing in Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech that will be remembered much past Sunday.
Even in the coverage before Obama took the stage, key members of his team, including David Axelrod, told the press that the President’s speech would only be a variation on his usual speech. If there was ever a time for something bold and innovative, this was surely it. And the President missed out on that opportunity.
Obama’s decision to play it safe resulted in a far from moving, aspirational speech. There was nothing really future oriented in his defense of the path he has been pursuing over the past four years.
Whereas President Clinton inspired us all with each turn, Obama’s speech reminded me of President Reagan’s less successful, less emotive campaign themes – the “stay the course” assertion that he made during the 1982 midterm elections which resulted in modest Democratic losses in both the House and Senate.
President Clinton ideally positioned President Obama to give a bold, forward- looking speech setting out his second term agenda. Unfortunately, Obama squandered this opportunity by playing it safe and using his typical rhetoric.
In the process, President Obama showed America, and the rest of the world, that he is less able to articulate his notion of where we need to go as a country and how we are going to get there than President Clinton.
Barack Obama is just no Bill Clinton.