Why Bill Clinton is the best choice to nominate President Obama at the Democratic National Convention


Bill Clinton will be the one to formally nominate President Obama at the Democratic National Convention this fall. (Pete Souza/THE WHITE HOUSE)

Much will be made about what this says about the relationship between Clinton and Obama. Clinton supported Obama in a speech at the last convention, coming on the heels of the bitter campaign race between his wife and Obama. And after a series of gaffes in recent months that had the former president walking back his remarks and even apologizing for them, Clinton’s featured role is sure to invite more scrutiny.

Is this a sign the president is desperate to have the most high-wattage Democrat at the convention in order to draw more attention to his campaign? Or is it an olive branch to his party’s most popular figure to show there are no hard feelings, and demonstrate to the public that the Democrats stand united?

It may be a little bit of both. Most of all, however, I’d guess it’s a recognition that there is no one else who can properly articulate what it’s been like to be in Obama’s shoes the past four years. Being the chief executive of anything—much less of the United States of America—is a singularly lonely act, something that is difficult to explain and even harder for people to understand. Doing so amid the worst economic recession in decades and against the most hyper-partisan backdrop in Washington makes it even more so.

Therefore, if you’re president and you’re looking for the person who can make the best case for your candidacy, it’s the person who really knows what it’s like to be commander in chief. Biden may be able to share up-close-and-personal details about the job Obama’s done, but he’s never held the actual position himself. However loyal Biden may be, he hasn’t experienced the weight of making the final tough decisions the president of the United States must make. That experience is Obama’s and his predecessors’ alone.

Sure, Clinton loves being in the spotlight, and inviting him to make such a critical speech should help put to rest any worries about ongoing tension between the two men. And yes, Clinton’s star power is unmatched in the Democratic party and, to some extent, with independent voters. Both of those factors surely played a role in picking him for the primetime speech, but it’s shortsighted to see that as it. Rather, I’d guess Clinton’s unique perspective as the party’s only living two-term president, and the authority and credibility that brings to defending the job Obama’s done, is the biggest reason it makes sense he got the nod.

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.

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