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DNC: Bill Clinton’s Redemption Song

 by Hannah Lobel

Tags: Politics, Election 2008, Democratic National Convention, DNC, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Kerry, speeches, John McCain, Andrew Sullivan, TPM, Jon Stewart,

After days, weeks, months of fretting about how to keep Bill Clinton’s mouth shut, the former president showed last night what he can do when unleashed.

Bill has been credited with sinking his wife’s campaign and then, fueled by bitterness, turning his sights to Obama. None of that was on stage last night. He not only delivered the most clear-eyed analysis of why Americans should vote with the Democratic Party, he explained why they should vote for Barack Obama (a distinction not made by his wife a day earlier). Beyond that, he showed why he can be a campaign asset: He’s a scary smart diagnostician of the country’s woes and what’s needed to heal them.

Andrew Sullivan, who’s more than upfront about his “personal disdain” for the man, had this to say about the speech:

Tonight, I think, was one of the best speeches he has ever given. It was a direct, personal and powerful endorsement of Obama. But much, much more than that: it was a statesman-like assessment of where this country is and how desperately it needs a real change toward reform and retrenchment at home and restoration of diplomacy, wisdom and prudence abroad.

It was a night of redemption for more than just Bill, though. Senator John Kerry, the Dems’ 2004 loser, rallied to his moment.

There’s a lot of blogster buzz about how the networks cut away from Kerry’s speech to, as TPM’s Josh Marshall puts it, “feature their yakkers.” (One word: C-SPAN.) Kerry’s speech is indeed worth revisiting for anyone who missed it. It got off to a wobbly start, but eventually took off. The highlight is a Jon Stewartesque debate Kerry recreates between Senator McCain and Candidate McCain.

I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.

Candidate McCain now supports the very wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once called irresponsible. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding me folks? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.

Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself. And what’s more, Senator McCain, who once railed against the smears of Karl Rove when he was the target, has morphed into candidate McCain who is using the same “Rove” tactics, the same “Rove” staff, the same old politics of fear and smear. Well, not this year, not this time. The Rove-McCain tactics are old and outworn, and America will reject them in 2008.

Watch Kerry's speech:

And Clinton's, too:

For more of Utne.com’s ongoing coverage of the Democratic National Convention, click here.