x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Clinton speech cheers the Democrats

Barnstorming display from former president puts new life in ailing Obama campaign

WASHINGTON // It was back to the future for the Democrats.

Bill Clinton delivered his blast from the past Wednesday night with a full-throated - if hoarse - defence of president Barack Obama and his record.

Before the last US president who presided over sustained economic growth spoke, Democrats resurrected language from its winning 2008 platform, declaring "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths."

The party also added a passing reference to God in the unemployment section of the platform, returning the line about those willing to work the opportunity to "make the most of their God-given potential."

The omissions had caused heavy Republican criticism.

Mitt Romney, Mr Obama's Republican challenger, has identified US-Israel relations as a possible weak point for the current administration and has spared no effort to present himself as more pro-Israeli.

The platform changes reportedly came after a personal intervention by Mr Obama - along with pressure from wealthy Jewish donors.

Amendments were sent to the convention for vote.

On the Jerusalem wording, whether it was the tortuous phrasing or simply displeasure that the party had been forced to bow to outside pressure, the vote - which was called three times and each time seemed inconclusive - was met with jeers and boos from the delegates unconvinced that proper protocol had been followed.

Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan state legislator, told Fox News that delegates had been "shammed".

"It failed twice, and for whatever reason it still failed but was still pushed through," Ms Tlaib said.

Ms Tlaib was one of a record number of Muslim delegates at this year's convention. According to the Council on American Islamic Relations, there were more than 100 Muslim delegates at the Democratic convention, up from 43 in 2008 and 25 in 2004.

Their presence lend weight to the Democratic Party's contention that it is the only party that caters to the full spectrum of America's ethnic mosaic. It's an important argument in an election where ethnic minorities are likely to be a crucial voting bloc.

Democrats are struggling to ignite some enthusiasm over Mr Obama's re-election campaign, countered by the Republican focus on high unemployment and sluggish economic growth.

But Democrats can still call on Mr Clinton, who only seems to get more popular with age.

He said American voters were presented with a stark choice in November.

"If you want a you're-on-your-own, winner-take-all society, you should support the Republican ticket," Mr Clinton told an adoring crowd.

"If you want a country of shared prosperity and shared responsibility — a we're-all-in-this-together society — you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden."

He also showed he had lost none of his wit or charm, lambasting Republicans for "doubling down on trickle down" economics, and joshing Mr Obama for beating Hillary Clinton in 2008 and then promptly offering her a job.

Mr Obama joined Mr Clinton on stage at the end of the former president's speech. His challenge will be to harness the enthusiasm Mr Clinton sparked all the way to November and back to the future.

 

okarmi@thenational.ae