What Does the Man from Hope Really Hope?

-Richard E. Vatz

On President Bill Clinton’s convention speech, a few observations, with an assessment of Senator Biden’s to follow:

1. Bill Clinton’s speech seemed to satisfy Obamaphiles, but why? He “supports” Sen. Obama and “loves” Sen. Joe Biden. The main thrust was defensive: “Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States.” He thinks, he says, that Sen. Obama will be a great commander-in-chief – but why does he think this? We don’t know. The defensiveness may have been because many of the reluctant testimony critiques of Sen. Obama, including Bill Clinton’s, made the argument that he wasn’t ready.

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2. Where were Obama’s list of accomplishments? Partly this absence of reference in President Clinton’s speech was due to Obama’s being a U.S. Senator, wherein accomplishments are not reducible to individual accomplishments, unlike Governors. Part of it is due to Barack Obama’s national inexperience. How do you enumerate specific national accomplishments of a man who four years ago was an Illinois State Senator? John McCain, Clinton allowed, was a “good man.” No such reference and venerable honor for the Illinois Senator.

3. Bill Clinton looked physically well; Hillary in the audience with Chelsea looked genuinely happy. The former probably reflects reality; the latter, not so much.

4. Bill Clinton is going to campaign with Barack Obama, said James Carville on CNN – not a bad, but not a decisive move. Al Gore didn’t want President Clinton anywhere near his campaign in 2000. Wonder if in a moment of let-it-all-hang-out curiosity President Clinton will ask Sen. Obama, “Say, Barack, Hillary won 18 million votes; why didn’t you even consider her for Vice President? Just askin’, bud.”

5. Bill Clinton referenced his theme of hope with a time honored reference to Hope, Arkansas. Hope is a liberal god-term; conservatives know that “hard work” is a better one.

It’s hard even for a professional like President Clinton to manufacture factual material wherein it doesn’t exist and even “hope” when he doesn’t authentically experience it.

Richard Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

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