In the end, it took Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, to help fulfill the narrative that President Barack Obama has been writing since the keynote convention speech he delivered at the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004: This is neither a red nation nor a blue nation, rather an American nation. The political harmony that Obama could not find in a deeply divided Washington, he found in a deeply distressed New Jersey.
And in the end, it took a tough fight for the White House to fully enlist Bill Clinton, the former Democratic president who had refrained from outward displays of friendship for the man who defeated his wife in the party’s primaries of 2008, for a full-throated campaign for Obama’s re-election – starting with the most arresting speech of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and concluding with a campaign-closing tour of Obama and his “secretary of explaining stuff.”
Obama, Clinton said late last night at a concert-sized appearance in Bristow, Virginia, “has done a good job with a bad hand.”
That hand was the worst recession since the Great Depression, followed by a House gone Republican midway through his term as president. With an economic stimulus and health-care overhaul to show for the first half of his term, Obama confronted a Republican opposition on Capitol Hill largely defined by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s avowed determination to ensure that Obama does not see a second term.
It took Hurricane Sandy and Christie’s praise for Obama’s response to the disaster to open the door for Clinton to say something last night that he couldn’t have said one year ago, with Washington ensnared in partisan gridlock: “In a time torn by ideological warfare and contentious partisanship, he has the right philosophy. The president knows that `we’re all in this together’ works a lot better than `you’re on your own.”’
“We saw it in the way the president got off the campaign trail and responded to Sandy,” Clinton told a cheering crowd. “And all over America, people were thrilled to see him working with the Republican governor of New Jersey and the mayor of New York City, who is an independent — and who endorsed President Obama, in part because of this — and the Democratic governors of New York and Connecticut. There is no Republican or Democratic way to rebuild after a flood, to save lives, to start again, to turn the electricity on, to clean the debris. But what I want to tell you is cooperation works better when there is no disaster, and if you don’t have cooperation, you have the makings of a disaster. Barack Obama is a proven cooperator. ”
And now, after what had all the appearances of an icy relationship between the 42nd president and the 44th president, Clinton is talking himself hoarse in the cause of Obama’s re-election. (It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with 2016, when a retiring president offers a certain candidate from 2008 and also an ardent trooper in the cause of the Obama presidency, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a clean opening for the White House.) Last night’s appearance with Obama and the Dave Matthews Band before a crowd estimated at over 20,000 in a concert amphitheater marked the 27th event that Clinton has attended for Obama, four with the two together. Their campaign appearance today in Concord, New Hampshire, will make it five for the duo.
Since the convention in Charlotte, Clinton has been putting in simple words the broader ideas that Obama has attempted to convey — hence Obama’s designation of Clinton as the secretary of explaining stuff. He has produced campaign ads arguably more compelling than the president’s.
Obama “knows that an economy that builds the middle class and gives poor people an honorable way to work their way into it is a lot better than four more years of trickle-down. We’ve been there, we’ve done that.,” Clinton said last night. “He knows that a budget based on arithmetic is a lot better than one based on illusion. And he knows that practical cooperation is better than all this constant ideological conflict. And we saw it, didn’t we?”
Another reason he’s for “for President Obama is that he has done a good job with a bad hand,” Clinton said in Bristow. “Keep in mind, all through 2007 and 2008, then-Senator Obama crossed America with Senator Clinton and Senator Biden and other good Democrats, all talking about how bad the economy already was. Medium family income after inflation was lower than it was the day I left office. Poverty was up. All these things Mr. Romney talks about now were true before the crash — because of the policies he now advocates.Then came the crash, just six weeks before the election. And he took office when the economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Now, the economy lost jobs for about 15 months. But when it started again, and President Obama’s jobs program started kicking in, in just 33 months we’ve had 5.5 million jobs, as of yesterday. ”
“Now, when someone criticizes an officeholder, you have a right to ask them, compared to what? (Laughter.) So let’s look at our most recent comparison. If you don’t count the losses in the crash against President Bush, and you just look at the seven years after the brief slowdown we had when the .com stocks crashed a little bit and the onset of the crash in September 2008 — just that seven-year period, there were 2.6 million private sector jobs. In 33 months, less than half that time, twice as many jobs — 5.5 million. Barack Obama has done a good job with a bad hand. ”
“The third reason I’m for him is that he has fulfilled his solemn responsibility to be a good cmmander-in-chief,” Clinton said. “He has advanced the nation’s security by ending the war in Iraq, by bringing our troops home from Afghanistan — by fighting terror, modernizing the military, and aggressively pursuing diplomacy to make a world with more friends and fewer adversaries.”
“And,” Clinton added, ` he’s got a heck of a secretary of state.”