Good Soldiers, Wise Leaders. DNC: Day 3
Opening his speech this afternoon, Bill Clinton described his two responsibilities as “first, to support Barack Obama, and second… to warm up the crowd for Joe Biden.” Check, and check. In what proved to be a solid and persuasive speech, Clinton asserted that the American dream was slipping away, and that Obama was the man to reclaim it. With the military as the day’s major theme, Clinton then balanced ideology with pragmatism, stating that “with Joe Biden’s experience and wisdom supporting Barack Obama’s proven understanding, instincts and insight, America will have the national security leadership we need.”
Good move. In equating Biden’s foreign policy experience with national security, Clinton distanced the Dems from perceptions of dovish liberalism while also reframing foreign policy as a question of intelligence, rather than simply might. In the speech’s killer line, Clinton remarked that “people the world over have always been more impressed by the power of our example than by the example of our power,” and this, in a nutshell, is his argument.
For strategy purposes, the decision to focus on the military was a strong one. It’s not easy to argue against a war hero, and arguing the issue of patriotism is most definitely a lost cause. Instead, the Democrats choose to reorient the conversation around diplomacy and strength, claiming that good soldiers don’t always make the best presidents, and moreover, that electing a wise leader is still a patriotic gesture.
The Republicans will nominate a good man who served our country heroically and suffered terribly in Vietnam. He loves our country every bit as much as we all do. As a Senator, he has shown his independence on several issues. But on the two great questions of this election, how to rebuild the American Dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world, he still embraces the extreme philosophy which has defined his party for more than 25 years, a philosophy we never had a real chance to see in action until 2001, when the Republicans finally gained control of both the White House and Congress. Then we saw what would happen to America if the policies they had talked about for decades were implemented.
In these five sentences, Clinton nailed the two big issues that will define Obama’s campaign and make or break his chances in the Fall: the loss of the American dream and US global power. Through calling for a leader with the tenacity of a soldier rather than a soldier with the vision of a leader, Clinton managed to invert Republican strategy against itself, and deliver a decent speech in the process. Here’s to the end of the warrior king.