Political Animal


September 04, 2012 10:43 AM Clinton and the Vetters

By Ed Kilgore

So BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith is reporting that the convention speech vetting operation has yet to receive (as of yesterday, at least) a draft of Bill Clinton’s Wednesday address. Smith suggests that is making the vetters “nervous.” I don’t know if this is some sort of attempted parallel to the Eastwood fiasco in Tampa, but if so, it’s not a good one.

Clinton has always been a late speech noodler, to put it mildly. He is also (like Barack Obama) a very good wordsmith on his own account. And he’s got an awful lot to cover on Wednesday, in what could turn out to be a speech as important as the incumbent’s.

There was an incident during one of Clinton’s State of the Union Addresses (can’t remember which one) where the teleprompters went down for a good twenty minutes. He did not miss a beat. I’d be shocked if he did so in Charlotte. Republicans this year are battling to trash his legacy even as they seek to coopt it and pretend that Mitt Romney will restore the “reforms” Obama has abandoned. He will almost certainly climb onto the podium with a head of vengeful steam. So Team Obama should be patient and let it build.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • TT on September 04, 2012 10:53 AM:

    Sorry for the off-topic post but this is good news.

    Virgil Goode has qualified for the presidential ballot in Virginia. Even if pulls just 1-2% it will make Virginia that much harder for Mitt Romney.



  • Steve LaBonne on September 04, 2012 10:55 AM:

    Of course Smith is trying to set up a phony parallel. He's a shameless hack.

  • c u n d gulag on September 04, 2012 10:55 AM:

    "The Big Dawg" will be just fine!
    Great, even!

    After all, if Hillary has ANY interest at all in running again, he'll be very interested in making sure the Clinton franchise is well represented in Charlotte.

    An besides, since the Republicans didn't even invite their own previous President to their Convention, and his Daddy only appeared on video, he'll want to put on a good show for the whole Bush Crime Family - even if it's just to piss-off Jeb.

  • Mimikatz on September 04, 2012 11:00 AM:

    The only thing they have to worry about with Clinton is that he gets so carried away with the adulation and the limelight that he goes on too long. Think 1988. Of course he is a more seasoned pro now. And Obama doesn't need to worry because the contrast works in his favor too. Clinton is more empathetic, but Obama is much cooler and represents the future.

    But Clinton's hold on a large segment of the population can't be underestimated. Last week as we discussed the conventions my hairdresser said "I don't care what he did. I really liked him.". She is a woman probably in her late 50s woman who is raising a grandchild and supported Hillary but is now a big Obama fan.

  • Tom Q on September 04, 2012 11:05 AM:

    For those with short memories: "worry that Clinton will go rogue in his speech" was a regular feature of 2008 coverage (along with "Will Hillary's delegates revolt?"). Why does anyone listen to all this "Dems in Disarray" analysis?

  • Ron Byers on September 04, 2012 11:17 AM:

    Clinton has always found shutting up to be a problem. His speeches tend to go long. I would imagine the vetters are worried about the lenght of Clinton's speech.

  • deanarms on September 04, 2012 11:35 AM:

    Ben Smith is just pathetic. If anyone out there can make sense of his convoluted defense of Ryan's lies that appeared over the weekend, you are a smarter person than I am, and more given to magical thinking. He was a half hearted progressive over at Politico. Now he's just sad. Bill Clinton is going to hit it out of the park, rest assured, regardless of what the beltway VSP's are saying.

  • Quaker in a Basement on September 04, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Why does anyone listen to all this "Dems in Disarray" analysis?

    Because of our track record?

    (cf, Rogers, Will, re: organized political party)

  • bluestatedon on September 04, 2012 12:04 PM:

    Smith and his former hackmates at Politico are as loathesome and contemptible as the loons at Fox.

  • JM917 on September 04, 2012 12:07 PM:

    I live not only in Virginia but also in Virgil Goode's old Fifth District (of which the last distinguished representative was Tom Perriello, who dispatched Ol' Virg in 2008, and in which the present GOP incumbent is the aptly named Robert Hurt).

    Ol' Virg, he who led the charge against letting Congressman Ellison swear his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson's Koran ("We can't have no Mooslims in this Congress"), still has plenty of fans in the Virginia hinterland. He's probably good for two or three percent of the VA popular vote, which won't do Romney any good.

    I just wish that a Goode-like candidate were also running for the Senate, to siphon off votes from George ("Macaca" Allen.

  • Felicia on September 04, 2012 12:13 PM:

    Ed, why are you giving credence to any story conjured up by Ben Smith? He's Drudge-lite.

  • Joe Friday on September 04, 2012 12:20 PM:

    "Clinton has always been a late speech noodler, to put it mildly."

    Like making edits in the limo on the way to the Capitol to give the SOTU.

    "There was an incident during one of Clinton's State of the Union Addresses (can't remember which one) where the teleprompters went down for a good twenty minutes."

    That was the 1994 SOTU speech, but the Teleprompter didn't fail, the wrong speech was loaded and displayed, and they had to scramble to remove that one, install the new one, and then speed it ahead to match what Clinton was speaking.

    Nobody even realized until well after, except those who were attempting to follow along with the prepared speech on their laps.

  • Joe Friday on September 04, 2012 12:41 PM:


    "The only thing they have to worry about with Clinton is that he gets so carried away with the adulation and the limelight that he goes on too long. Think 1988."

    That's a well-repeated but apocryphal story. First, Clinton had been asked to pad his speech by the Dukakis team before he even took the stage, and then they kept giving him the signals to stretch, as whoever was scheduled next was not ready (I can't remember who it was).

  • victory on September 04, 2012 12:51 PM:


    "6:12 PM — Denver time, in the Mountains of Humidity and Oppressive Heat. Nobody has “vetted or edited” Bill Clinton’s speech. Obama’s staff finally got a look at it, a few minutes ago. It will “likely run much longer” than it’s supposed to, which is about normal for Ol’ Windbag From Hope."

    In 2008 at the DNC, the Obama people didn't get to "vette" Clinton's speech until just hours before.

    There really is nothing to see here except the media trying to create the news themselves.

  • beejeez on September 04, 2012 1:02 PM:

    I've been an editor for 25 years, and I would argue this is not the time for short speeches. There's a lot of ground to cover, and I think the main goal for the Dems should be: make your case patiently, with no exaggerations, no glosses on the facts. The facts alone are conclusive. I think independents will be impressed more by being talked to as adults and would find insulting a pretense that the case for Obama can be wrapped up in less time than a sitcom. The speeches are going to be scoured for several days in every medium; let's give the pundits a hefty dose of meat to chew on and leave no openings for accusations of bullshittery. Not only leave no stone unturned, leave no stone unthrown. Take the time for a point-by-point thrashing of the Republcan agenda and record, present a solid, realistic agenda outline and don't stint on rally-the-troops drama. That chart that compares Bush-era economic performance to this point? That should be the three-story high backdrop on the stage. What's more, Clinton and Obama have to make it clear that the presidential vote isn't enough, that what's needed are Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

  • Rip on September 04, 2012 3:24 PM:

    Well, one way to get people to anticipate Clinton's speech, where he is expected to rip R/R a new asshole, is to put out the idea that he might "go rogue". I wouldn't be surprised if the Obama people are deliberately pushing this meme.

    Meanwhile, what is up with Romney's "debate prep" disappearance from the campaign trail? Looks like there is some rethinking of strategy going on in the Romney camp after the their convention belly flop.

  • beejeez on September 04, 2012 6:15 PM:

    Folks may detest his sleazy personal history, but each passing year makes Bubba look more like the Solomon of Presidential competence. A killer speech could loosen up this tight race considerably.