Bill Clinton spoke to the Democratic Convention tonight. Most Republican reactions to Clinton's speech miss the point, as Republicans have always missed the point when it comes to Bill Clinton. He is clearly the most talented politician alive today, and the heir-apparent to Reagan as the Great Communicator. If he were running again this year he would win in a landslide, even given his sketchy history.
Tonight he was spellbinding. His political oratory skill varied from "aw shucks--isn't it obvious that the Republicans are wrong?" to wonky, I've-been-there-and-I-know-better "data" (quotation marks intentional) about just how big are the Republican "lies" (also intentional). It doesn't matter whether or not he was telling the truth--he seemed genuine, and he seemed knowledgable. If someone so genuine and knowledgable and gosh-darn-it likable thinks that Republicans are wrong and Obama is the right man, then by golly Obama must be the right man.
The fact-checkers will tell you that he got his facts wrong. The Republicans spin doctors will tell you that he misrepresented their positions, oversimplified their proposals, and falsely accused them of starving little children. And that won't matter; the damage is done--the Republicans will be running against Clinton for several days, if not weeks. We should call Obama's inevitable convention bump "The Clinton Effect."
The only recovery is Obama himself. He may just be too narcissistic to allow Clinton's speech to be the highlight of the convention. In attempting to out-do Clinton he may remind us--painfully--the he is most definitely not Clinton.
As for Romney? He should marginalize Clinton as much as possible. Something like, "President Clinton's speech was tremendous. It is clear why people elected him, twice. He was so convincing he almost made me want to vote for him. But he is not running, and he gave the exact same type of endorsement to John Kerry in 2004. He is going to support the Democratic party, and he is going to demonize the Repubican party because that's what he does. We wish him well in his retirement and his humanitarian efforts. Now, about Obama..."
Prior to Clinton's remarks the convention was a mess. It started with the kerfuffle over removing the word God from the party platform, and followed that problem with a series of soulless speakers whose very prominence on the stage made them seem that much smaller. That is another reason why the Clinton speech will stand out; he made Elizabeth Warren and Sandra Fluke irrelevant.