Bill Clinton to set the stage for Obama at N.C. convention: Aw-shucks, it makes perfect sense


Bill Clinton in London in May. (Samir Hussein/GETTY IMAGES FOR CLINTON FOUNDAT)

It makes perfect political sense that Clinton has been tagged, as The New York Times reported, to formally place President Barack Obama’s name into nomination at the Democratic National Convention here in September, in prime time, and make the economic argument for four more years. This from the president who presided over a flush economy, served two terms and has never strayed far from center stage. The Clinton Global Initiative is one thing, but this speech puts him back into TV rooms across America. “There isn’t anybody on the planet who has a greater perspective on not just the last four years, but the last two decades, than Bill Clinton,” Obama strategist David Axelrod told the Times.  “He can really articulate the choice that is before people.”


President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton wave to the crowd after speaking at a campaign event at the New Amsterdam Theatre, Monday, June 4, 2012, in New York. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

At times so far during the 2012 campaign, Clinton has seemed ambivalent about Obama, disagreeing with him on his strategy to attack what Clinton called Republican Mitt Romney’s “sterling business career,” and on the decision to let Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans expire. (Clinton later backtracked on that one.)

Though Clinton always returns to the Democratic Party line, he maintains an independent and unpredictable profile. For his part, Obama must sometimes wonder what this former president is going to say next.


US President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Washington Convention Center on April 27, 2012 in Washington. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Obama has to know Bill Clinton and his prodigious political and oratorical skills are handy to have around on the big stage during your party’s big show, the one that sets the stage for November. (The fictional Clinton-like figure on the new TV series “Political Animals” hails from North Carolina, but with that accent would never be mistaken for the real thing.) Charlotte’s mix of the cosmopolitan and down-home should appeal to the man from Hope and Hot Springs, who operates out of New York City.


Bill and Hillary Clinton at the Obama inauguaration, January 2009. (Jeff Christensen)

Clinton’s role will steal some thunder from Vice President Biden, who will share the closing night with President Obama, but Biden has shown great loyalty to his president. (Wasn’t that stand-in speech at the NAACP convention a barnburner?)

As for Clinton, you wonder if he’s thinking of 2016 and if his wife, despite current denials, might decide to make a run for the presidency then. It might be an easier go after a second term for Obama, particularly a successful one, than against a GOP incumbent.

The best part of a Sept. 5 Bill Clinton convention speech followed by President Obama’s Sept. 6 climactic wrap-up? You just know political junkies and everyone else for that matter will be waiting to see who did it best.


Mary C. Curtis is an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

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