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Huntley: Clinton reminded us that Obama is no Clinton

Updated: October 7, 2012 8:02AM

Out on the campaign trail in recent days, President Barack Obama accused Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney of wanting to take America back to the 20th Century. The problem with that is most Americans remember the last couple of decades of the old century as a time of prosperity in contrast to the jobless misery of the Obama years. That inconvenient truth was on display Wednesday night in a spectacle intended to boost Obama’s re-election — a speech by the last president of the 20th Century.

Oh, former President Bill Clinton delivered on his task of rousing the party faithful to their feet at the Democratic National Convention with a full-throated endorsement of Obama for laying “the foundation for a more modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for innovators.”

But Clinton’s big convention role only highlighted Obama’s failures. The contrast was extraordinary: Clinton was the president who presided over prosperity, channeled the nation’s centrist instincts by embracing investment tax cuts, and found a way to work with bomb-throwing conservative House Speaker Newt Gingrich; Obama is the president who presides over historic unemployment, pursued liberal ideological goals such as Obamacare while the economy cratered, and couldn’t find a way to strike a deal with mild country club Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

It’s no wonder Obama wanted to find a way to bask in the nostalgic glow of Clinton’s success.

But how was Clinton’s speech anything to independent voters but a reminder of how different the two presidents are? Clinton declared the era of big government over. The theme of this convention: “The government is the only thing we all belong to.”

Yes, Clinton backed Obama’s economic and health care policies . But it shouldn’t be forgotten that Clinton was boosting Obama out of self interest. Clinton has to do what he can to help Obama in order to keep the path open for a 2016 presidential bid by Hillary Clinton should she want it.

The mixed message of Clinton was appropriate for a convention full of confused signals. The party of labor unions is holding its convention in a right-to-work state. One day the Democratic platform dropped the word God as well as an endorsement of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, staples of past platforms. The next day with a voice vote the convention restored both, piling embarrassment on embarrassment with a thunderous no vote to the restoration and then a loud chorus of boos when it was ruled accepted. The vaunted Obama campaign embarrassed itself by not being aware thunderstorms are a normal part of September weather in Charlotte when it planned an outdoor acceptance speech, which now has to be moved to the indoor arena out of fears of bad weather Thursday — or was it fear of not being able to fill all the stadium seats?

The confused symbolism of Clinton’s speech was perfect for this confused convention.

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