Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Bill and Barry's excellent adventure

Hot damn it, he's still got it. He hasn't been himself for much of this year, what with his wife’s campaign and all, but tonight Bill Clinton showed why he can still lay claim to being the best retail politician of his generation, and one of the best in our lifetime.

In a one-off rally with Sen. Barack Obama tonight in Kissimmee, Fla., the heart of the heart of Dixie, Clinton put to rest the longtime suspicion that he harbored lingering resentments against Obama for the disastrous arc of the presidential campaign of his wife, Hillary Clinton. If he does, it wasn't obvious tonight.

The 35,000 people who stayed up to attend Bill & Barry's first joint campaign appearance got a great combination: The former president, using his still considerable gifts as a politician on behalf of the possible president, who tonight stepped forward in his way and finally distilled the current economic crisis, and the only sensible solution to that crisis, into something that everyday people could get their heads around.

Bill Clinton made the case for Obama in forthright terms — someone in the press will use the phrase "full-throated," guaranteed — and did it in an historically Republican stronghold, the geographic soul of the NASCAR-and-barbecue wing of the GOP, a state suddenly very much up for grabs.

"Barack Obama represents America's future, and you've got to be there for him next Tuesday," Clinton, with Obama at his side, said to the cheers of a partisan crowd.

Folks, we can't fool with this," Clinton said. "Our country is hanging in the balance. And we have so much promise and so much peril. This man should be our president."

◊ ◊ ◊

Clinton cited four reasons for backing Obama: “Number one, the philosophy; number two, the policies; number three, the ability to make a decision; and number four, the ability to execute that decision and make changes in people’s lives. …

“ … [T]he next President of the United States should be — and with your help, will be — Senator Barack Obama.”

Barack sent some love back. “In case all of you forgot, this is what it’s like to have a great president,” Obama said.

Obama touched on a multitude of points, his usual ones, on the need for new national leadership, and threw down a call for more volunteers in the final days of the campaign — and for a high turnout at the polls. But one passage did it all, spoke volumes for any fence-sitters in the battleground states and beyond who had been waiting for a clear signal of Obama’s comprehension of the stakes of the economy, and his sense of what could save that economy. With unmistakable clarity, Obama brought the issue home.

“When you are growing the economy from the bottom up, when the nurse and the teacher and the firefighter and the construction worker — when they are all doing well, then guess what? Everybody does well. It turns out that when they’ve got money to spend, then they go out and buy the new car, which means that GM and Ford, they’re doing well. And the auto dealer’s doing and the stock market’s doing well, and the investor is doing well. That’s how the economy grows. And that’s what we’re gonna do when I’m president of the United States.”

◊ ◊ ◊

It was the capper on a big-ass day. Before the Barry & Bill Show, the long awaited Obama infomercial spilled into an estimated 40 million homes — Obama’s last best chance for a more intimate dialogue with the American people. With a documentary look into the lives of ordinary Americans, Obama's perfect narrator's voice and lapidary production values, Team Obama's infomercial made history as the first longform political campaign video since Ross Perot flip-charted his way into the national living room in 1992.

Earlier in the day, a rally with running mate Sen. Joe Biden in Sunrise, Fla.; and a stop in Raleigh, N.C. Sometime during all that, Obama squeezed in a taping of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” And on and on, it goes. At this point, it’s all about momentum. More importantly for Obama, it’s about acceleration against all odds.

You'll find that quality in the great race horses, the great runners. Some people call it summoning “an extra gear.” In a grueling race between two evenly matched contestants, you can almost see that final coil of energy unleashed in the genuine thoroughbred, that last mortgage of physical resources in the service of a desire that will not be compromised. It’s come to Obama to put the final kick into the last turn in this bell lap for the presidency.

Funny thing: In this race, the betting window’s still open. It closes in six days.
Image credits: Clinton and Obama: Huffington Post (immediate source). Obama office: Obama campaign.

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