Byron York, two weeks away from joining the John Locke Foundation for a pre-election panel discussion, uses his latest Washington Examiner column to dissect the message of former President Clinton’s speech endorsing President Obama’s re-election bid.
Campaigning in 2008, Barack Obama set the very highest goals for his presidency. He would not only bring about economic recovery, he would lay the foundation for a new economy, bring Americans together, reduce the rancor of political debate, and even slow the rise of the oceans. Now, as he runs for re-election, Obama is caught in a trap of his own making: Many Americans who voted for him, particularly independents, are judging him not so much by what he has done in office as by what he promised to do. If voters hold Obama to that standard on Election Day, he will lose.
What Obama desperately needs to do in the campaign’s last two months is to lower expectations, to bring the high hopes of 2008 in line with the reality of 2012. That might be an impossible job, but Team Obama realized there was just one Democrat capable of even giving it a shot: Bill Clinton. …
… Sincerity aside, there’s no doubt Clinton can make the case for Barack Obama’s re-election far better than Obama himself. At age 66 and nearly a dozen years removed from the White House, Clinton remains the best simplifier, the best explainer, in American politics. Obama can’t touch him.
So on Wednesday night, Clinton didn’t just make excuses for Obama, although he did a lot of that. He also thoroughly rebutted the main lines of attack Obama faces from Republicans Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and he did it in a way that anyone could grasp. Clinton’s argument won’t change any Republican minds, but it could well make some independents a little less likely to side with the GOP. If Obama’s advisers are smart, they’ll make ads from Clinton’s speech, and not from whatever Obama says Thursday night.