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Obama, as Bill Sees Him

12:14 AM, Aug 28, 2008 • By TERRY EASTLAND
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Bill Clinton left no doubt that he's for Barack Obama. But it's striking that his case for Obama depended much less on any accomplishments by the candidate than on his intelligence, character, "family heritage," "life experiences," and promise. Consider that section early on in which Clinton said that Obama has an ability to inspire people, that he has the intelligence and curiosity a successful president needs, that he understands our increasingly diverse nation, etc. Only at the end of the section did Clinton discuss things Obama has actually done, and they included the odd ones of (in effect) winning the long primary battle against Hillary and then, just last week, picking Joe Biden as his running mate. "His first presidential decision," Clinton called it. Usually, of course, presidential candidates do the deeds that qualify them for the job before they run for it.

Nearing the end of his speech, Clinton actually did cite Obama's "achievements" as proof of "our continuing progress toward the ‘more perfect union' of our founders' dreams." Clinton did not say what those achievements are. But it's clear in context that Clinton had in mind one achievement--that of becoming the first African-American to be nominated president.

Some voters will choose Obama because he would be the first black American to be elected president. Yet it's doubtful that this vote will be large enough to carry him to the White House. On this night, Clinton was not a compelling advocate.