Political Animal


September 06, 2012 12:17 AM Day’s End and Night Watch

By Ed Kilgore

Well, they’re up to Louisiana in the official roll call vote in Charlotte, but I’m going to go ahead and wrap up my evening coverage.

Best as I can tell, the only negative things anyone is saying about Clinton’s remarkable speech is that it was too long (this is part of the “upstaging” theory conservatives were promoting all day), and that the Obama-Clinton hug was too short. Man, talk about going for the capillaries! I think the Romney campaign is now deeply regretting its many earlier efforts to praise Clinton at Obama’s expense. I would hope they’d have the decency to finally take down the welfare ads, or at least remove Clinton’s image from them, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Did Clinton fail to hit any of his marks? Hard to think of any. Yeah, as a welfare policy wonk back in the day, I’d have loved it if he had combined his flat repudiation of the welfare ads with a shot at what Republicans are proposing to do to all the federal support programs that “make work pay” for former welfare recipients. Other than that, I can’t think of much he missed. He covered, mostly brilliantly, the economy, the debt, health care reform, Medicare, Medicaid (including its importance to seniors, which everyone keeps forgetting), taxes, and Obama’s character. There was also a brief and somewhat perfunctory section on foreign policy, but Obama needs no help there. I said on Twitter that the speech was sort of a Bill’s Greatest Hits rolled into one text, combining humor, policy chops, eloquence, colloquial skill and passion. Yeah, it went on for a while, but he never got into the weeds, and barely wasted a breath. He also didn’t bask in the applause, quieting the crowd down repeatedly so he could continue.

Even though Republicans will probably continue to try to suggest that this speech will somehow diminish Obama’s tomorrow (a questionable argument since Ryan’s so clearly exceeded Romney’s in quality and audience response), what it really did was to reduce the pressure on the president to knock one out of the park. It is probably a shame that Clinton’s performance could make people miss or forget Elizabeth Warren’s fine prime time address, but you can’t have everything.

We’ll see if tonight’s assessments hold up overnight, but at the moment, looks like a very successful session.

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.


  • Varecia on September 06, 2012 12:26 AM:

    Clinton still amazes me even after all these years and all the baggage; I think he was just speaking extemporaneously, possibly with a half dozen very broad talking points prepared beforehand, but really it was all just Clinton performing this naturally structured improv before our eyes! Yep, I was very impressed, and thought he really debunked so much of the GOP lies. I just wish he'd actually used the word 'lie.' But it was still scathing, nevertheless. I remarked to my husband I'd never seen any politician who could debunk and put down an opponent with just an initial body gesture or glance, the words following were just frosting on the cake!

  • June on September 06, 2012 12:45 AM:

    Thank you, Bill Clinton for so masterfully deconstructing the utterly shameless nonsense that passes for "substance" in the Romney campaign. GOBAMA 2012!

  • jharp on September 06, 2012 12:54 AM:

    To me. The best line of Clinton's speech was his praise of President Obama for marrying Michelle.

  • yellowdog on September 06, 2012 12:59 AM:

    Yes, he went on too long--but if you ask Bill Clinton to speak, that is just what's going to happen.

    He made a number of big contributions:

    -He validated Michelle Obama's perspectives on the president's character and commitment to the middle class. Clinton--once the eager kid from Hope, Arkansas--knows something about the struggle to get to the middle class--and he explains economic policy choices from that perspective. Mayor Castro was effective at making this argument as well. His best line was (paraphrasing here), Romney's not a bad guy, but he just doesn't know how good he has had it.

    -He rebutted the false and nasty welfare ads.

    -He rebutted the Medicare charges. Good line: It takes brass to criticize your opponent for something that's in your own plan.

    -He brought in the issue of Medicaid. Not too many folks have picked up the issue--but a lot of older voters and people with disabilities stand to lose a lot under the Ryan plan.

    -He discussed issues in a very approachable way. He boiled complicated policy-speak down to simple, clear language. He knows how to talk to people.

    A good performance. Clean single from Obama tomorrow is fine, after extra bases the first two nights.

  • grandpa john on September 06, 2012 1:23 AM:

    Bullshit on the too long. Everyone watching didn't suffer from ADT. I had to look at my watch to realize it was 45 min. Jesus, if school kids can set in a classroom for an hour, surely these assholes can give their attention for 45Min. None of the people there thought it was too long hell, they were still wanting more. the real problem these assholes had was they they didn 't like what they were hearing,their butts were burning from the reaming they were getting.

  • grandpa john on September 06, 2012 1:26 AM:

    Oops, Make that ADD, ADT is my alarm service

  • mmm on September 06, 2012 1:44 AM:

    Anybody want to guess what kind of a "bump" Obama gets after this week? I'll guess 6 points.

  • Varecia on September 06, 2012 2:09 AM:

    Hmmm. I was just looking at stats from the Democratic Convention from 2008 (NYTimes/CBS News poll):
    +3 All Voters
    -3 Men
    +9 Women
    +4 Democrats
    +6 Independents
    -2 Republicans
    +8 Moderates
    +3 for age 18-44
    +8 for age 45-64
    -3 for age 65 or older
    -3 White Men
    +10 White women
    WW further broken down:
    +15 for WW under age 45
    +6 for WW age 45 or older
    +3 for WW Suburbanites

    I just don't know, but I think it may be slightly more than the modest +3 change that the 2008 Convention generated.

  • Doug on September 06, 2012 2:21 AM:

    Ok, where do I send my slobberingly juvenile fan letter to so that Mr. Clinton gets it?
    I already know where to send the one to Michelle Obama...

  • Thisby on September 06, 2012 3:07 AM:

    I love the Big Dog and I could have listened all night. So many things I could comment on in his speech, but I will go for the Medicaid remarks, since I have spent more than 20 years working in Medicaid. The Repubs want people to equate Medicaid with "welfare," a legal association that went away with Bill Clinton's welfare reform. "Medicaid" and "welfare" are not synonymous. Eligibility for "welfare" is just one of the many routes to eligibility for Medicaid, and a minor one at that.

    Much public discussion of Medicaid focuses on parents and children, who do indeed make up two thirds of Medicaid enrollment. However, they don't really cost much overall. As President Clinton pointed out, nearly two thirds of Medicaid dollars go not to non-working, low-income families, but to elderly and disabled adults and some disabled children. I was a little disappointed that he singled out nursing homes, but of course that is what most people associate with long term care. The truth is that most long term care these days is delivered through home and community-based services, not to say that nursing homes and institutional care for developmentally disabled individuals isn't an important part of the picture.

    Elderly or disabled adults who enter a nursing home and who are not rich soon run through their savings and have to rely on Medicaid, because Medicare long term care benefits are extremely limited. Many elderly and disabled adults avail themselves of home care in the community, which saves money while enhancing quality of life; however, insurance doesn't cover this kind of care, nor does Medicare. Medicaid is pretty much the only payer in the country to cover long term care in the home.

    Even more than care for elderly adults, states struggle with providing care for disabled individuals, primarily adults and children who are developmentally disabled. Institutionalization was the traditional way of caring for these people in the past, but it has proven to be not only the least satisfactory option for the individual, but also the most expensive way of providing care. So, most states have expanded home and community-based services for these folks. And what program provides that care? Why, it's Medicaid, of course! And Medicaid brings anywhere from 50 to 75 percent federal funding to aid the states in meeting their obligations to these people.

    Finally, Medicaid has become the default payer for the vast majority of mental health services in the country. Most insurance plans limit care, in spite of numerous state laws requiring parity of coverage for mental health. Huge numbers of children and adolescents who have mental health issues end up in "the system," going into foster care, and often requiring inpatient or residential psychiatric care. Who pays for that? Well, for the majority of young people, it's Medicaid. In some states, parents have to give up custody of their mentally ill children to the state in order for Medicaid to provide coverage. The alternative is bankruptcy for the parents or no care for the child.

    I apologize for rambling on for so long. This is an issue near and dear to my heart, and I am driven nearly insane by the Republican portrayal of Medicaid as some service for the lazy and the undeserving (read: non-white minorities).

    If people really understood the role Medicaid plays in our society they would.... well, hell, would they do anything different? Or would they let the conservatives continue to decimate lives across the spectrum?

  • Varecia on September 06, 2012 3:22 AM:

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss Medicaid, Thisby! I think everyone should read that, so how about submitting it to some other blogs as well?

  • smartalek on September 06, 2012 4:39 AM:

    "We’ll see if tonight’s assessments hold up overnight, but at the moment, looks like a very successful session."

    FWIW, one possibly leading indicator is the betting on Intrade, one of the prediction markets, with an ostensibly good record of prognostication. I'd been comforted by many months of figures at or above 60% probability of an Obama win (and a corresponding 40% or less value for Rmoney) -- and then grown progressively (heh) more depressed as the numbers tightened to, as of last week, something like 57 : 43. (Still quite good, of course, but with a discomfitting trend-line.)
    Earlier today, the read was about 58 : 42 (had been something like that since last week).
    As of now, it's 59.6 : 40.1 -- that's a net improvement of almost 6 points from just before Tampa, and close to 4 points in just a few hours. Yay.

    " you can’t have everything."

    Of course you can't. Where would you put it?
    (Sorry, couldn't help myself. It's an old Stephen Wright line, and since he's rarely given the credit for "wherever you go, there you are," I feel an obligation to do something for him whenever I can.)

  • yellowdog on September 06, 2012 5:29 AM:


    I appreciate your strong defense of Medicaid. I love anybody who speaks up for the mentally ill in particular, so kudos to you! You have a fan.

  • CharlieM on September 06, 2012 7:59 AM:

    Down south, we call it an ass-whuppin'. The big dog dealt one last night.

  • T2 on September 06, 2012 9:01 AM:

    good god...I woke up to hear NPR going on about the Stadiumgate...switching from outdoor to indoor arena for tonite's speech...GOP says its because Obama isn't popular anymore, NPR questions the Dem's judgement for choosing outdoors in the summer...and so on. You'd think there was no more important issue facing the United States than what stadium the President gives a speech in. Apparently where the man speaks is much more important than what he says. That makes sense if you are Mitt Romney, but not if you are Barack Obama.

  • Ron Byers on September 06, 2012 9:30 AM:

    I notice the lame stream media isn't really talking about the Romney plans for Medicaid. Big Dog laid those out and laid them low last night.

    Most medicaid money goes to take care of seniors in nursing homes. Much of the rest takes care of kids that don't have healthcare. Only a relatively small portion of the program goes to take care of "the other." When Tea Party folks realize that greatgrandma is going to have to move in with them, they are not going to be happy Republicans.

  • Celui on September 06, 2012 9:31 AM:

    Clinton's speech was masterful, as so many above have said. What made it even more masterful is that, like any good tent revivalist preacher, Clinton's message outline began to grow as the audience fed him and he couldn't help but feed them more and more. Who the heck cares about the length? What matters is substance, content, delivery, response, and reply. So--lesson for all prospective candidates: talking points are just that--an outline. If the speaker can connect with his audience, feed them more and feed off their response(s), then he's got to go on, because he's got a message and the audience is ready to listen. Again, just masterful. I'm glad I had the opportunity to hear him again. Now, Mr. President, you know what you need to do.