Quote of the Day:
He traces her life through government program after government program to help children. He even described for the national TV audience Hillary’s water breaking for the birth of Chelsea. TMI.
—Andrew Malcolm live-blogging Bill Clinton's speech last night
Bill Clinton was called forth last night to act as character witness for Democratic nominee.
It has to be said that his speech was sort of spooky, given what we know of the marriage.
Former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton shares the personal story of how he almost touched Hillary Rodham for the first time. It was in law school. He came up behind her, reached out. But he didn’t touch her because he thought just maybe she was something special. He’s still at that tilted head, finger-wagging, lip-biting thing to show thoughtful sincerity.
Eeeek! (My bolding.)
National Review's Jim Garaghty captured our national unease last night in a post headlined "Lengthy Portrait of a Presidential Marriage that We Did Not Need to Hear":
The first thirty or so minutes felt like an interminable slog through the courtship and early years of the Clinton marriage – less a compelling sales pitch for the nominee than Grandpa giving a long and meandering story about how he met Grandma at their anniversary dinner.
Considering what we know about the Clinton marriage, this was a potentially supremely awkward course for Bill to take. Out of all the aspects of Bill and Hillary Clinton that Americans admire, I suspect very few would want to be married to either one of them. We know he was a relentless womanizer during those years, and quite possibly much worse than that.
We know names like Juanita Broderick and Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers. But clearly Bill Clinton felt he needed to “humanize” Hillary Clinton, and so he tried to show us all the little moments of their lives that the public never got to see. (Robert Caro would have said there was too much detail.) He conveniently skipped from 1997 to 1999, ignoring the year when his troubles and the state of his marriage consumed a year of his presidency.
Dennis Miller used to joke that the Clinton marriage couldn’t be any more about convenience if they installed a Slurpee machine. But she obviously chose to stick with him through all the grief and aggravation, and he never, as far as we know, decided he wanted to divorce her. This is a mutually-supportive marriage based upon mutual presidential ambition. That’s what makes the Clintons tick and maybe some folks will find that romantic and inspirational; some will find it a twisted reflection of what a marriage ought to be.
That relentless, transparent ambition is, I suspect, one of the things that adds to her low approval ratings and low trustworthy numbers: these two will lie about anything in order to get what they want. Will tonight help Hillary Clinton? Well, what undecided voter out there was waiting to see if Bill thought electing her was a good idea?
Jonah Goldberg thinks that instead of trying to "humanize" Hillary, Bill should have deployed his well-honed skills as an attack dog:
Oh, and let’s return to the fact that Bill needed to humanize Hillary Clinton. The woman has been in public life for three decades and the highest best use of her former president husband is to spend an entire convention speech trying to convince voters that she’s human.
MSNBC's Rachel Maddow gave the speech overall an A + but caviled over the courtship segment, which "was not a feminist way to start." She found it "shocking and rude.”
Like Jonathan Last, I was thinking last night, before Bill came on, that his speech at the Democratic convention four years ago may have turned the tide in Barack Obama's campaign for four more years. Last found that since then "the big dog has lost some of his bite:"
Bill tried to defuse the charges which had been leveled against Hillary last week at the Republican convention. He said that they simply weren't true, that they were fiction, that the opposition was turning Hillary into "a cartoon."
This might have been more persuasive had he tried to explain a single one of the charges against his wife—on Benghazi, on her flip-flopping on trade, on the mishandling of her private email server. If he could have contextualized even one of these problems in a way that would have sounded reasonable to independent voters, it would have been a big deal.
He did not. Probably because he could not.
Let's face it–Bill had a tough assignment last night.