Former President Bill Clinton showed us last night that he is still a master of the art of political rhetoric. Democrats loved his convention speech on behalf of President Obama and so did most of the media which had begun swooning over his magic touch hours before he even began talking. The genius of Clinton’s political style is that, unlike most of the Democrats on the Charlotte podium this week, he understands that there is more to political oratory than merely bludgeoning your opponents and damning them as women-hating plutocrats. Thus, Clinton not only sought to charm the audience with his aging but still potent down-home routine, he was also seeking to disarm listeners by throwing out some lines designed to make us think his goal is fairness. That led to perhaps the most awkward moment of the evening when he actually briefly praised President George W. Bush, leaving his partisan audience momentarily stunned.
But what the Democrats and the media really liked was Clinton’s lengthy refutation of Republican arguments as he spouted figures and claimed he was merely doing “arithmetic” in pointing out the GOP’s flaws. Clinton produced the laughs and the scorn he was trying for, earning applause in the arena and in the glowing notices that followed. But the notion that he demolished Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan has more to do with a willingness on the part of his listeners to buy whatever he’s selling than logic. As the Washington Post Fact Checker and the American Enterprise Institute’s James Pethokoukis report this morning, there were a number of points on which there is a wide gap between what Clinton said and the truth.
As Pethokoukis points out, the catchiest statistic of Clinton’s 50-minute talkathon was his attempt to highlight a “jobs score” between Republican and Democratic administrations in which the GOP finds itself at the short end of a 42-24 million-job deficit. But the problem here is that some of the Democrats had conservative fiscal policies and some of the Republicans tilted left. Thus, John Kennedy’s tax cut for everyone, including the wealthy, produced a jobs gain while George H.W. Bush’s tax increase produced the recession that helped elect Clinton. The Nixon and Ford administrations were big spenders and taxers and, ironically, produced fewer new jobs than Clinton who cut taxes, reformed welfare and shrank government.
The real jobs score is that conservative economic policies created 40 million jobs while liberals, including Barack Obama created only 26 million.
The Post’s Fact Checker column also took Clinton to task for deceiving his audience by claiming President Obama’s proposed budget reduced the deficit by $4 trillion, something it says “is simply not accurate.” The number is compiled by the usual Washington budget gimmickry counting savings that aren’t really budget cuts. As the Post says, “it’s fake money being used to pay for real spending projects.”
The paper also chided Clinton for his description of the president’s bogus jobs plan that was to be paid for with “imaginary money.”
This sums it up:
Get the picture? Clinton praises Obama both for his sound budget math and for his jobs plan, even though the money to fund the budget and the jobs plan is used twice. That certainly doesn’t pass the Arkansas 2+2=4 test.
Clinton also strained credulity when he claimed that ObamaCare is already reducing the cost of health care before it has even been implemented. But as the Post says, any reductions have been due to the lousy economy over which Obama has presided. The former president also distorted the numbers of those newly insured under the law who will get private coverage as opposed to Medicaid.
And though the Fact Checker chooses not to analyze his comments about welfare reform, the column also alluded to Clinton’s claims saying “there may be less to this than meets the eye.”
But don’t expect most of the media to pick up on these glaring mistakes or to label them as “lies” the way they followed Democratic talking points after Paul Ryan’s speech last week. The true magic of Bill Clinton is not his ability to persuade wavering centrists to back Obama. Few votes were changed by his speech. The magic lies in Clinton’s ability to say anything and by dint of his seductive charms get most of the media and his party loyalists to treat it as the truth even if it isn’t.