A House Divided On President Clinton’s Speech

The Webner House was a house divided last night after President Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen President Clinton giving a speech on the national stage, but he hasn’t changed much.  He still has that crinkly voice, the habit of starting every second sentence with “Now” or “Look” or “This is important,” and the finger-wagging and finger-pointing.  He still exudes a kind of roguish folksiness.

Kish thought President Clinton knocked it out of the park with his vigorous defense of President Obama’s performance and critique of the Republicans.  I thought the speech was too long and too unfocused, flitting from topic to topic on hummingbird’s wings without establishing any kind of theme, and not very convincing besides.

Consider President Clinton’s point on gas costs.  He said we should be grateful that the Obama Administration has issued regulations that will require cars to be twice as fuel-efficient in the future, saying that means we’ll be paying half as much for gas because we’ll be driving cars that need only half as much gas.  The problem with that argument is that the federal government has been issuing fuel-efficiency regulations for years, yet our costs increase because the rising price of gasoline outstrips any fuel-efficiency savings.  Is any American paying less for gas these days than they did, say, in 1994?  And, of course, President Clinton only focused on the cost of gas, and not the cost of the car.  How much will it cost to buy a car that meets the new standards? How many people will be able to afford them, and how many of the cars — like the Chevy Volt — will need to be sold with a government subsidy to even approach the range of affordability?

I also was struck by President Clinton’s point that the big difference between his tenure and now could be summarized in one word:  arithmetic.  He argued that Republican proposals don’t add up.  The use of “arithmetic” is interesting because a popular t-shirt in Republican circles these days is a play on the famous 2008 Obama “hope” poster; it features a silk screen of Paul Ryan with the word “Math.”  Republicans argue that it is President Obama’s budget proposals that violate basic principles of mathematics and are based on phony “savings” and overly optimistic assumptions about economic growth.  Is President Obama well-suited to attack Republican arithmetic when he has presided over a series of years that have produced trillion-dollar deficits, and his own budgets forecast enormous deficits for the foreseeable future?

Finally, President Clinton argued that no President, including Clinton himself, could have fixed the problems President Obama inherited in only four years.  The fundamental premise in that argument, of course, is that President Obama hasn’t repaired the damage in four years.  Even if you accept that conditions when President Obama took office were historically unprecedented, the problem is that President Obama, Vice President Biden, and other members of the Administration confidently predicted that the problems would be fixed and that the economy would be roaring ahead at this point.  Obviously, that hasn’t happened.  Some Americans may pause to wonder why we should reelect someone who hasn’t delivered on his assurances and now is saying that the job was tougher than he led us to believe.

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4 thoughts on “A House Divided On President Clinton’s Speech

  1. The enormity of the economic devastation facing this country was not completely revealed during the campaign; he made predictions based on the information available to him. The job was tougher than he was led to believe.

    It’s interesting to note that Governor Romney did not have any living presidents speaking at the GOP convention; President Obama has had two.

    Paul Ryan is diminishing his credibility by lying.

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  2. It’s the ARITHMETIC, stupid…..

    Women love him, men want to be him….
    Like me, you’ll say, “He’s amazing….
    Moms love him, kids do too….
    Got Clinton?….
    Put a Clinton in your tank….
    Nothing outlasts the Clinton-izer. It keeps going and going and going….
    The president that refreshes….
    With a name like Clinton…. It has to be good….

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  3. I missed Clinton’s speech the other night, but heard he cited lots of “facts and figures” supposedly supporting, among other things, how well the economy was run “under his leadership.” I’m wondering if he mentioned the data summarized at the following link http://www.davemanuel.com/history-of-deficits-and-surpluses-in-the-united-states.php

    The data indicates that during the first two years of Clinton’s first term, when democrats controlled both houses of Congress, there were very large budget deficits. The deficits decreased when the republicans gained control of Congress in 1994.

    The data also indicates that the only 3 years there were budget surpluses during Clinton’s 8 years in office, were 1998-2000 when republicans controlled both houses of Congress (and therefore, they, and not Mr. Clinton, passed budgets, tax laws, etc.), and this was also when the artificial “dot com” bubble was creating what turned out to be a temporary economic boom (the NASDAQ dropped by 74% from 2000-2002).

    Wish I had caught Clinton’s speech. I’m sure he gave credit to the republican congress that passed all of the budgets, tax laws, etc. that were in place during the last 6 years of his presidency.

    One additional observation from the data that I’m wondering if former President Clinton mentioned were the massive deficits under the democratically controlled Congress from 2006-2010. I understand there has been a dysfunctional stalemate in Congress for the last two years, but did notice that the budget proposed by President Obama earlier this year was voted down 414 to 0 in the House of Representatives, and either 97 or 99 to 0 in the Senate.

    I am wondering how President Obama can claim he is serious about fixing the economy when not one democratic member of Congress, in either house, voted in favor of his proposed budget.

    Am I missing something here that should be obvious?

    As always, thank you for all of the above posts

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  4. If it’s possible, I actually agree with both of you. As a piece of persuasive communication, I think the speech is by far the most powerful of this election. In terms of substance, I agree with you about his evasive rhetoric. Clinton very effectively obscured just how wildly inefficient federal spending has been the last 4 years (stimulus cost just under 300k for every job “saved”/”created” for a couple years). And, as you point out on gas costs, when Dems talk about the rewards of our investments they always find clever ways to hide the dramatic costs. I’m hoping that this election will force the Dems’ moral vision to be held accountable to adult math. Good read!

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