Advertisement
Op-ed

Bill addresses the Hillary deficiency

Perhaps in repayment for all the times Hillary Clinton has had his back, Bill Clinton held a typically winning "conversation" Tuesday night with the Democratic National Convention delegates -- and millions watching on television -- about the woman polls suggest remains unlikeable and untrustworthy to so many voters.

The former president turned on his customary charm in a folksy recollection of how they met at the Yale Law School and she eventually followed him to Arkansas, where they married and he became governor and she the first lady of the state, and later of the nation.

Advertisement

In this casual manner, Bill Clinton offered a step-by-step chronicle of her public service, particularly on behalf of children and the disadvantaged. He cited individuals along the way who witnessed and could testify to his wife's engagement and empathy, running counter to the public impression that she is excessively cold and calculating.

He summarized her strongest attribute as "a "change maker" who had a knack for improving everything she set her mind to. As Bill spoke, spellbound listeners in the hall in Philadelphia waved placards that said, simply, "Change maker." Their appearance suggested a case of massive delegate clairvoyance about his message -- or at least clever-by-half convention planning.

Advertisement

Whichever, Bill Clinton's engaging chat with the audience was a slick argument for a public softening of the poll-captured caricature of his wife. Indeed, he theorized that Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland created a false caricature of Hillary of his own rather than run against the Hillary as he and thousands who know her really to be.

To further bolster Bill's pitch, the convention organizers produced a phalanx of witnesses to her change-making and, of equal political import, her personal engagement in their life crises.

One of the most effective presentations was the joint appearance of mothers of African-Americans killed or otherwise victimized by law-enforcement officials, attesting to Hillary Clinton's personal concerns. Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, shot to death by a neighborhood watch coordinator in Florida, spoke movingly for the Mothers of the Movement in support of the Democratic nominee's call for tougher gun controls.

In all, it was a well-orchestrated night designed to combat some of Hillary Clinton's most perceived personal weaknesses, with her husband uniquely positioned to qualify as a character witness to her readiness in both heart and mind for tackling the nation's pressing domestic challenges.

Bill Clinton chided the Republican view of his wife as "a cartoon" of the real Hillary. After the convention roll call of states had put her over the top for the presidential nomination, he told the assembled delegates they "nominated the real one. For this time, Hillary is uniquely qualified to seize the opportunities and reduce the threats we face."

Predictably, the former president had little to say about his wife's foreign policy engagement as President Obama's secretary of state. Equally predictably, it will be a focus of the Trump and Republican attack on her in the post-convention campaign.

But taken as a whole, the Democratic convention already has been a much more effectively rolled-out event than the Republican version in Cleveland last week, marred by staff gaffes and Mr. Trump's heavy accentuation of the negative. Placards repeatedly waved in the Philadelphia arena this week pointedly asserted: "Love Trumps Hate."

In terms of political maneuvering, the failure in Cleveland to paper over the deep split in the GOP was punctuated at the end by losing candidate Sen. Ted Cruz's graceless refusal to endorse Trump in addressing the convention.

Advertisement

By contrast, the losing Democratic candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, went a substantial way to snuff out a protest against hostile behavior by the Democratic National Committee in the primaries, after its chairman was deposed before the convention began.

Following Hillary Clinton's gracious call for Barack Obama's nomination by acclamation in 2008, Mr. Sanders did likewise from the Vermont delegation at the close of the 2016 roll call, amid thunderous approval. The votes of Mr. Sanders' supporters for her remains a question, but the convention has seemed already to give her a distinctly more favorable headwind than the GOP show heading into the approaching general election.

Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is juleswitcover@comcast.net.


Advertisement