CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A rousing speech from former President Bill Clinton that capped off Wednesday night at the Democratic National Convention was well-received by attendees, although the day wasn’t free of controversy.
Clinton took to the podium at the Time Warner Cable Arena to call formally for the nomination of Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee for president, but not before taking digs at Republican nominee Mitt Romney and others for what he said were false assertions about the current administration.
Among the accusations made by GOP vice residential nominee Paul Ryan that Clinton disputed was the claim that Obama robbed Medicare of $716 billion in an effort that could imperil the benefits of seniors.
“Here’s what really happened,” Clinton said. “There were no cuts to benefits. None. What the president did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren’t making people any healthier. He used the saving to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program, and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund. It’s now solvent until 2024. So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare, they strengthened it.”
The former president, who signed welfare reform into law in 1996, also took issue with Republican claims that Obama had waived the work requirement for welfare reform — an assertion echoed last week by former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum on stage at the Republican National Convention.
“When some Republican governors asked to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama administration said they would only do it if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20 percent,” Clinton said. “You hear that? More work. So the claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirement is just not true, but they keep running ads on it.”
Clinton also came to Obama’s defense on the economy, saying the economic situation that had befallen the nation in 2008 under the Bush administration was so dire that Obama couldn’t be expected to reverse course in just one term in office, but more progress should be seen in a second term.
“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did,” Clinton said. “No president — not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”
The former president also touted Obama’s signature legislative achievement — the Affordable Care Act — saying claims that it amounts to a government takeover of health care are untrue.
“Soon the insurance companies, not the government, will have millions of new customers — many of them middle class people with pre-existing conditions,” Clinton said. “And for the last two years, health care spending has grown under 4 percent, for the first time in 50 years. So are we all better off because President Obama fought for it and passed it? You bet we are.”
Clinton, who signed into law “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, made no reference to LGBT issues during his remarks. The former president has come out for marriage equality and has since called for DOMA repeal and an end to the military’s gay ban before it was ultimately lifted.
But Clinton did express gratitude to former President George W. Bush for creating the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief when talking about the accomplishments of former Republican presidents and how he could never hate the GOP the way the far right hates Obama.
“I am grateful to President George W. Bush for PEPFAR, which is saving the lives of millions of people in poor countries and to both Presidents Bush for the work we’ve done together after the South Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake,” Clinton said.
Watch Clinton’s speech here:
Attendees at the Democratic National Convention were captivated by Clinton as he delivered his remarks. His speech was punctuated by applause and shouts of “Four more years! Four more years!” After the remarks, Obama entered onstage alongside Clinton, who gave a bow to the current president before the two embraced.