The Washington Post

Clinton gave Obama a copy of his speech the morning of its delivery


Former President Bill Clinton speaks during a campaign stop at Florida International University for President Barack Obama on Sept. 11, 2012 in Miami, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

How much advanced notice did former president Bill Clinton give President Obama about what, exactly, he planned to say at last week’s Democratic National Convention?

Clinton said he provided Obama a copy of his highly praised speech, which he had been drafting for well over a month, only on the morning of its delivery.

In a conversation with The Washington Post and two other news organizations late Tuesday at this city’s historic Biltmore Hotel, Clinton said Obama responded with just two suggestions.

The current president offered thoughts on tightening language in a section responding to Republican attacks on changes Obama has made to the welfare reform effort Clinton led in the 1990s, as well as to a section dealing with Medicare.

Clinton said he incorporated both of Obama’s suggestions — “He was right!” exclaimed the former president.

Clinton noted that he’d worked closely with Obama’s staff on the draft prior to showing its full contents to the president.

Clinton’s comments came at the end of day one of two days in Florida, the first leg of an eight-week effort on Obama’s behalf in which he will reprise the convention speech that has now earned him the moniker of “secretary of explaining stuff.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, Clinton said he believes Obama is now “doing great” and must concentrate on explaining to the American public that the economy suffered such a steep dive during the 2008 financial crash that no president would have been capable of turning it entirely around in the following four years.

That point formed a central thesis of Clinton’s remarks at the Charlotte convention, as well as remarks on the campus of Florida International University here on Tuesday.

Clinton chalked his own ability to clearly explain complicated policy to a childhood spent in the south, where the ability to tell compelling and understandable stories was highly prized.

Clinton said he was pleased to read a blog entry by a Republican following the convention that said though the Republican disagreed with much of the content of the speech, he thought Clinton had been the only speaker at either convention to “speak to him like he was a grown up.”

Clinton also had warm words for President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, noting wryly that he was the only speaker to mention the former Republican president at length at either party conclave.

And Clinton revealed the winner of the golf game he played with Obama in which the president personally requested that Clinton come to Charlotte to formally nominate him for reelection: Obama won, “fair and square,” he said, noting that he’d slept just three hours the prior night.

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