Nostalgia Night

Bill Clinton Displays All His Rhetorical Power. Which Means He Forgets to Mention Us Again

Bill Clinton likes to talk, and fortunately for the Democrats, he’s very, very good at it. Clinton delivered a speech at the Democratic convention Wednesday night that not only revved up the collected troops but sent pundits scrambling to their thesauruses to find a new word for “spectacular.”

In a fifty-minute riff, Clinton demonstrated that he is second to no one in translating policy into simple language. The role of government in society? “We believe ‘we’re all in this together’ is a better philosophy than ‘you’re on your own.’ ” Tax cuts for the wealth? “We simply cannot afford to turn the reins of government over to someone who will double down on trickle-down.”

Reducing the deficit? “President Obama’s plan cuts the debt, honors our values, and brightens the future for our children, our families and our nation. ” All this while sprinkling the speech with data that also served as applause lines.

Bill and Barack haven’t always been buddies. So there’s a certain irony in having Bill Clinton, who gave us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, go to bat for the man who repealed it. True to his ’90s style, Clinton was a lot more circumspect on social issues than other speakers at the convention. No shout out for marriage equality from him.  The party’s willingness to embrace social issues this time shows that it is in a very different time and place than it was during the Clinton years. Also by contrast, Elizabeth Warren’s barnburner speech in which she said “the game is rigged” against working people underscored that the party hasn’t entirely embraced the New Democrat, Wall-Street friendly approach that Clinton pioneered.

The second day of the convention had a few roadbumps, some of the Democrats own making. There was a last-minute rush to edit the platform–a document that no one except  partisans on either side cares in the least about–to strengthen the language in support of Israel. There was a silly faux scandal about the word “God” being absence in the platform’s mind-numbing boilerplate about faith. Then there was the venue change for Obama’s acceptance speech from a large open-air stadium to a smaller indoor arena because of the threat of thunderstorms.

In the long run, none of this is likely to matter much. What matters is that the Democrats have really hit their stride in Charlotte. By any account, the convention speakers have connected emotionally with viewers in a way that Republicans have not. That’s a big problem for Mitt Romney, who has awful favorability ratings and has yet to connect with voters despite a rapidly approaching election day. It’s now up to Obama to clinch the deal but so far the Democrats are off to a much stronger start in the final countdown than the GOP got when it left Tampa.

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  • GreenmanTN

    And what would have been the reaction here and other gay news sites if Bill Clinton HAD mentioned gays? “Oh yeah, NOW he cares! He brought about DOMA and DADT so who does this jerk think he is? Does he think we’re stupid?!”

    All things considered it was best he kept his mouth shut about gay rights. He wouldn’t have just been attacked for it by gays but by the GOP, Fox News, and the Right (those last 3 are basically all the same thing), which would distract from his speech and its message.

    Our rights and issues are getting plenty of attention at the DNC. Many voters are nostalgic for the “good old days” of the Clinton Presidency, so Clinton drawing a direct line between the economics of his Presidency and Obama’s was important to convey without distractions.

  • Cam

    We were mentioned specifically in the first ladies speech which was lauded on all the news channels. The Dems have put a pro gay plank in their platform. IF a few speeches go by that don’t mention us I’m fine with that.

    Better than giving us lip service and not doing something.

  • John Doe

    Unfortunately the Democratic platform is about 2 years late. The Democrats were in control of Washington DC for 2 years (Obama’s first two years) and they didn’t do much for gays. ENDA (employment discrimination), UAFA (equality in immigration) and DOMA were 100% ignored. Only at the last minute did DADT get attention and this was primarily because of the lawsuit against DADT that would have STRUCT DOWN DADT anyway. Remember, it was Obama that requested to the Court that they NOT strike down DADT because he preferred to go the slower route in having it removed. By the courts not declaring DADT unconstitutional, those dismissed under DADT don’t have the same rights to “undue” the harm that was done to them when they were discharged from duty. Thanks to the Log Cabin Republicans for this lawsuit AND for ignoring the gay organizations that urged them to NOT sue the feds on this issue. Shame on the Democrats for wasting their 2 years of Democratic control. Only now when Americans are slightly above 50/50 in supporting marriage equality are Democrats willing to stick their necks out. At the last Presidential election both Obama and Clinton wanted separate but equal. They both stood strong on supporting the “traditional definition” of marriage. There was no “gray area” in their views on this at that time. It wasn’t convenient then. It was too risky. This is NOT leadership. It’s politics and following polls, not leadership. Leadership is when discrimination against blacks was outlawed when society as a whole wasn’t ready for it. (Remember the risk taken by politicians when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964?) That’s an example of when a politician took a big risk. Now, equality is just politically correct and safe. There are very few Democratic politicians that have been leaders when it comes to LGBT equality. You’d have to go back 5 – 10 years to see who was willing to stand up and say that FULL equality for gays is a 100% must with no reservations. So, who was that? I don’t remember very many. (And certainly far fewer Republicans).

    Thankfully Democrats are moving towards progress on this topic, even if their shift is mostly political and because it is now safe and politically acceptable and correct. Clinton has evolved. Obama has evolved. Remember, there are still Democrats that do NOT support full equality…. and a very small number of Republicans that do. Progress IS coming but few of our politicians are true leaders that want US laws to truly reflect our constitutional guarantees.

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    “There was a silly faux scandal about the word “God” being absence in the platform’s mind-numbing boilerplate about faith.”


    It had nothing to do with absence (sic) of the word God or faith actually, it was about the REMOVAL of the word God specifically the line about “God given rights” that had always previously appeared in the platform including in 2008. The word that was INTENTIONALLY removed obviously to pander to a certain demographic which backfired when the entire convention floor is now on video as “boo-ing God” during the vote to re-insert the word God. The vote that actually FAILED the 2/3 majority audible required but was passed anyway AND with even pre-inserted language saying it passed (before they even voted) on the teleprompter during the vote, proving it was a fixed “vote”.

    AND way to go Queerty, totally ignoring the REMOVAL of “Jerusalem as the capital of Israel” as the other 1/2 of the “silly faux scandal” which, along with language about Hamas was a MAJOR BIG DEAL IN FOREIGN POLICY. And which also plays into the narrative that Obama is a phony about his controversial relationship with Israel and the rest of the Middle East.

    If you only have the discipline to focus on marriage equality, I suggest you just NOT COMMENT on anything else if you can’t be bothered to “report” it correctly. KTHX.

  • ScaryRussianHeather

    @John Doe:

    “Leadership is when discrimination against blacks was outlawed when society as a whole wasn’t ready for it. (Remember the risk taken by politicians when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964?) That’s an example of when a politician took a big risk. Now, equality is just politically correct and safe.”

    Exactly. AND this also applies to everyday people in their everyday lives. People need to stop letting the children carry the burden of leadership while adults like [the former] Anderson Cooper and Queen LaT. etc pay lip service to “equality”…and start living out and proud lives, even to personal detriment, instead of hiding behind a paycheck or other threats. The heroic trans drag community at Stonewall risked EVERYTHING of the little bit of nothing they had at the time.

  • tdx3fan

    @GreenmanTN: DADT and DOMA were both much needed compromises under the Clinton administration. The right at the time was pushing for a full out ban on both gay marriage and gay service members. They had the political support to accomplish it. Clinton was actually being progressive with both policies. Oh, how times have changed.

  • tdx3fan

    @John Doe: The fact is… YOU HAVE NO IDEA if the USSC would have struck down DADT or not since there was never a ruling. You can claim it would have all you want, but you do not know that.

    Oh, and if by “wasting their first two years of support and control” you mean working to bail out the US economy and passing healthcare, I know you will not want to hear this but those two things were MUCH more important than gay rights. Sorry, but they were. I’m not really sure I care if I can marry the person I love if we can not afford to get married and people are dieing because they have no access to reasonably affordable healthcare.

  • jeff4justice

    Fuck the 2party system of war, poverty and erosion of civil liberties and all their dumb ass wannabe conservative and wannabe liberal voters.

  • John Doe

    @tdx3fan: The fact is…. you have your facts mixed up.

    By going Obama’s route (in not letting the federal judge’s ruling and enforcement stand), it left it up to the President and military to determine how gays should be treated in the military. Yes, legislatively DADT was revoked and Obama signed that bill. But, because of Obama’s desire to avoid a judicial and constitutional ruling, there is NO guarantee of gays not being discriminated against in some way by a future President.

    Remember the facts. From the Advocate:

    “A federal judge has blocked enforcement of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and has ordered the Defense Department to suspend all investigations and discharges related to the policy.

    U.S. district judge Virginia A. Phillips, who struck down DADT as unconstitutional last month after a July bench trial in Riverside, Calif., entered her judgment shortly before noon Pacific time on Tuesday and ordered that an injunction against the 17-year-old law become effective immediately.

    But Justice Department attorneys may seek to appeal Phillips’s injunction to the U.S. court of appeals for the ninth circuit. They have argued that the district judge does not have the authority to block DADT (Phillips previously rejected those arguments in a pre-trial hearing).”

    AS WE KNOW, Obama and his Justice Department appealed to the Court to NOT enforce this decision. Instead of DADT being forever declared as unconstitutional…. Obama appealed to have the Courts defer to HIS administration’s handling and timing of DADT’s removal. The Justice Department was nearly begging the Court to let the Executive Branch and Legislative Branch dismantle DADT. So, again, instead of a judicial ruling shutting down DADT and deeming it unconstitutional… the DADT law was simply removed.

  • John Doe

    @tdx3fan: In regards to wasting the first two years, ENDA and UAFA were already written and co-sponsored by many lawmakers. Simply PASSING those laws is all that needed to be done. Repealing DOMA would simply require a few clerks to write down something that repeals DOMA… and then having lawmakers vote on it. Read DOMA. We’re talking about a few sentences that just need to be removed and replaced with “equality” in marriage. Pretty simple to do for the Democrats who were running Washington DC for 2 years.

  • GreenmanTN


    I do know that DOMA and DADT were compromise positions that Clinton was basically forced into to prevent other, more restrictive actions from being taken. I was politically active at the time and understand that, but Clinton is still blamed for them by many people.

    DOMA was undertaken because there was a very really threat of an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Constitution. I don’t know if the Republicans could have pulled it off or not but they were certainly threatening to do it. DOMA took the wind out of their sails and it’s easier to reverse than a Constitutional Amendment would be.

    People forget that DADT was supposed to be an advance FORWARD in the right for gay people to serve in the military. At the time it was known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, DON’T PURSUE but the military ignored that last part and continued their anti-gay witch-hunt in the military, dismissing MORE people under DADT than they had under the previous policy. The military didn’t honor their part of the DADT bargain, which is why I had NO sympathy for them when they were whining “It’s too soon! We’re not ready!” when DADT repeal came about. IF they had honored their part of the bargain they could have put off full acceptance of openly gay military personnel a while longer, but they didn’t, so THEY are the ones who forced the issue. Not that I believe it *should* have been delayed, but they themselves are largely responsible for when it happened and how it came about.

    But Clinton gets a lot of flack for both, not without cause because both DOMA and DADT are/were damaging, prejudicial laws, so it’s probably best he stay away from gay rights issues. It only leads to endless circular arguments instead of constructive action.

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