Diary

The Speeches

John Kerry: Bitter much? The entire speech was a catharsis for Kerry, one that was meant to lay out on full display just how upset he is that he came ever so close to winning the Presidency four years ago . . . and failed. The attacks on Karl Rove were amusing–you just know that Kerry wakes up at nights screaming in fury some epithet attached to Rove’s name for the way in which his campaign was comprehensively dismantled and defeated.

Bill Clinton: Best speech of the night–and thus far, of the convention. But it is a little lame to be protesting attacks on Barack Obama’s experience and trying to remind other people that the same attacks were leveled at Clinton 16 years ago when this is still out on the Internets:

Charlie Rose: Are you suggesting by that, that Senator Obama is more symbol than substance, as an agent of change?

Bill Clinton: Well, that’s not — he can’t help that.

Charlie Rose: But is that the reality, that he’s more symbol than —

Bill Clinton: No. Other people — what I’m suggesting is that if I were not president — if I had never married to Hillary, but I had known her all these 36 years, and she asked me to be doing this for her, campaigning, I would do it in a heart beat, because I don’t think it’s close of all the choices. And I like all these people. I don’t think — I think the others are entitled to a serious look. I think John Edwards made a serious study of poverty the last four years. You know, he started running for president two years after he was in the senate full-time. But when he left the senate, he made a serious study of poverty. The others — Biden, Dodd, Richardson have done great things. I think that counts for something. You know, I’m old fashioned. I think it really — I think a president ought to have done something for other people and for his country when you pick a president. But — but Obama is a person of enormous talent. You know, staggering political skills.

Charlie Rose: Ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: Well the voters have to make up their mind. But what I’m saying —

Charlie Rose: You sat in the office.

Bill Clinton: But what I’m saying is, in my experience, my — what I know about the job and what I know about the world, and I have been to 90 countries since I’ve been out of office, I want a president next time who has a good vision, and has great programs, but understands that even vision and programs don’t necessarily change people’s lives. And Hillary, ever since I knew her, has been the best I ever saw at seeing a problem and figuring out what to do about it. And that’s — so I have nothing bad to say about him or any of the others. But if you —

Charlie Rose: But you do — you measure it, and you just said, you keep score, and the question is —

Bill Clinton: But it depends on what — yeah, but it depends what you think the election is about. If you listen to the people who are most strongly for him, they say basically we have to throw away all these experienced people because they have been through the wars of the ’90s, and they made enough decisions and enough calls that they made a few mistakes. And what we want is somebody who started running for president a year after he became a senator because he’s fresh, he’s new, he’s never made a mistake, and he has massive political skills. And we’re willing to risk it. And I, even when I was a governor and young and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn’t run the first time. I could have.

Charlie Rose: That would have been ’88?

Bill Clinton: ’88. And I had lots of Democratic governors encouraging me to. I knew in my bones I shouldn’t run — that I was a good enough politician to win, but I didn’t think I was ready to be president.

Charlie Rose: But do you — look at this. I mean —

Bill Clinton: Let the voters —

Charlie Rose: Is Joe Biden ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: Absolutely.

Charlie Rose: Is Chris Dodd ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: I think he’s —

Charlie Rose: Is Bill Richardson ready to be president?

Bill Clinton: I think all of them have — let me just explain it this way. I think all of them know enough and made enough decisions, including a few mistakes, which I think is good. I want somebody to be president who has made a few mistakes. I don’t know season that’s never made a mistake. Never had to correct one.

Charlie Rose: You believe you learn more from failure than you do victory?

Bill Clinton: No, but I think you learn something from both, if you got any sense. But the point I’m trying to make is, not to criticize — I have nothing bad to say about any of these people. I think Obama — I get tickled watching him. He’s got great skills. It depends on what the American people and the Democrats in the first instance believe is more important. Is it more important to have somebody who is basically by his very nature a compelling, incredibly attractive, highly intelligent symbol of transformation, or is it more information to have somebody who also would similar symbolize change by being the first woman president, but has actually done incredible numbers of different things to change other people’s lives? And she’s mostly been another direction person. She’s never ran for office before 2000. I think that matters.

And more:

Bill Clinton: I agree with that. But remember in 1992, when I was just 46-years-old, I was also the senior governor in America.

Charlie Rose: Dealing every day with domestic issues.

Bill Clinton: Yeah. But I have been doing it for a very long time. And I had also had extensive international economic experience because of my economic development efforts. And I do believe now that the security issues are more important, even though they’re in the background, they’re more significant than they were then. Then we weren’t so much worried about our security, we were worried about building a new architecture for the post Cold War world. And I had a lot to —

Charlie Rose: Which had already begun under George Bush.

Bill Clinton: Well at least he called for it. Then — and he did some of the trade work. But I think — and we didn’t — we had some — quite a lot of overlap on what we wanted to do. He and I did on that score. But —

Charlie Rose: Primarily managing the Russian relationship, wouldn’t it be, because —

Bill Clinton: Yes. We wanted to do that, and I think we did a pretty good job of it, I think. He did, and I think I did. But the point I’m trying to make here is that this really — this whole election will be determined in part by what you think a president’s supposed to do, and whether you want a president — and what do you want them to do based on what they have done. And whether you think it matters that in theory, no experience matters. In theory, we could find someone who is a gifted television commentator.

Kinda undercuts the speech, doesn’t it?

Biden: Good grief. More verbal miscues and mispronunciations than I could count. Really, enough with the “George Bu–I meant John McCain” jokes; between both Kerry and Biden that was getting lame beyond belief. Enough as well with the “John McCain is a wonderful man, a dear friend and a superb human being who suffered terribly for his country . . . but I am going to savage him anyway” shtick as well. This doesn’t impress anyone. I’d be delighted as well to know what exactly it is that an Obama-Biden Administration would do to “rebuild” Georgia or why George W. Bush and John McCain deserve more opprobrium for the situation in Georgia than does Vladimir Putin. I know that conventions are supposed to be partisan affairs by definition, but as always, one is disappointed by a lack of reality from the “reality-based community.”