PHILADELPHIA – Former President Bill Clinton laid out a very personal, methodical case for electing his wife, Hillary, as the country’s next president Tuesday night, telling the Democratic National Convention that she has devoted her life to helping underserved Americans and changing lives for the better.
“She did more positive change-making before 30 than most do in a lifetime,” said Clinton, hours after his wife officially became the first woman to become the presidential nominee of a major U.S. political party.
“She is still the best darn change-maker I have ever known,” he said. “But we won’t get to that if she’s not elected. Hillary will make us stronger together. I hope you elect her.”
Hillary Clinton, who was not in the convention hall, made a brief video appearance at the end of the evening, saying she was “so happy, it’s been a great day and night and we just put the biggest crack in that glass ceiling yet.”
But there was no reference to her husband’s just-completed speech.
Much of that was a personal history of their early relationship that started at Yale Law School, how he had to repeatedly persuade her to marry him, and descriptions of his wife’s early efforts to help children and underserved Americans.
He argued that her story contrasted with what Republicans and other critics have said about his wife, then added, “You nominated the real one.”
Clinton’s roughly 40-minute speech was warmly received at the Wells Fargo Center, ending much of the speculation about whether Sen. Bernie Sanders’ supporters would embrace him and whether the 69-year-old former president could still captivate a crowd.
He spoke after a parade of other high-profile Democratic supporters, including former Attorney General Eric Holder and interim DNC Chairman Donna Brazile, who took the stage to highlight the so-called “fights” of Clinton’s life — including those for women, children and social justice and for better national security.
“As a child, I sat in the back of the bus,” Brazile said. “I’ve spent my life trying to change that. And from the first day when I met Hillary Clinton, I’ve known that she’s someone who … fights just as hard. As long as she’s in charge, we are never going back.”
The former president and Arkansas governor also followed a group of black women whose children died violent deaths and are part of the Mothers of the Movement organization.
“Hillary knows that when a young black life is cut short, it’s not just a personal loss. It is a national loss,” said Geneva Reed-Veal, whose daughter, Sandra Bland, was found hanged in a Texas jail cell last year. The official verdict of suicide was disputed by her family. “What a blessing it is for all of us that we have the opportunity … to cast our votes for a president who will help leads us down the path toward restoration and change,” she said.
On-stage star power included actresses Lena Dunham and Debra Messing.
President Clinton re-emerged Tuesday on the national stage after causing the Hillary Clinton campaign heartburn earlier this month by buttonholing Attorney General Loretta Lynch while the FBI was still conducting an investigation into his wife’s using a private server system for officials emails while secretary of state.
Clinton was a dominating force in his wife’s failed 2008 presidential bid, so much so that her campaign reportedly had to scale back his presence on the trail, particularly after he was dismissive of black voters abandoning the Clintons to help Barack Obama in his decisive South Carolina primary win. Hillary Clinton eventually apologized for the comment.
On Tuesday, President Clinton tried to get the Democratic Party back on track at the convention after a rough start.
Roughly 20,000 Democratic National Committee emails released Sunday revealed Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and some staffers tried to undermine Sanders’ insurgent primary campaign.
Wasserman Schultz was swiftly forced to resign Monday, in an effort to keep news of the scandal from overshadowing the four-day convention.
By Monday night, Democrats appeared back on the path to a unified party with Hillary Clinton in charge, after strong speeches from First lLdy Michelle Obama and Sanders.
“I’m with her,” the first lady said to roaring cheers.
The Vermont senator, who withheld his endorsement of Clinton for weeks after she secured the nomination in early June, said in his closing speech that Clinton “must become the next president,” which appeared to end much of the acrimony.
The pro-Sanders and anti-Clinton protests outside the convention’s security perimeter that dominated the early part of the week were smaller Tuesday, in the 90-degree-plus heat.
The roll call vote Tuesday of state delegates to officially nominate Clinton went relatively smoothly, with just a few pockets of Sanders discord.
With Sanders starting a persistent and ultimately imposing primary challenge, Hillary Clinton announced in late 2015 that she would unleash a “secret weapon,” which to nobody’s surprise was husband Bill, a master orator who by most accounts took weeks to regain some of his old form.