My Yale classmate Charles Lipson (now teaching law at Chicago) admires the slickness of Slick Willie over at the Huffington Post.
Bill Clintonâ€™s convention speech was a tour de force. He had a difficult task to accomplish, or rather, several difficult tasks, and he performed them as well as any politician could.
His overriding task was to humanize Hillary and reintroduce her to America, for the 37th time. He spent much of his speech doing that, sharing anecdotes of Hillary as a student, a loving daughter from a good Midwestern family, a young woman willing to take chances, and a new mother raising Chelseaâ€”all while working on important policy issues in Arkansas. He subtly depicted her as the leader in their marriage, or at least an equal partner, suggesting he knew how to become a â€œFirst Husbandâ€ and was ready for the role. He spoke of their meeting in the Yale Law Library, falling in love, giving birth to Chelsea, raising her, and taking her to college, becoming empty nesters.
In short, Bill Clinton depicted a real person in a real marriage. It is widely assumed, of course, that their marriage is a sham, filled with his cheating and her cold fury, held together only by their political ambitions. As Dennis Miller once put it, â€œBill and Hillaryâ€™s marriage couldnâ€™t have been any more about convenience than if theyâ€™d installed a Slim Jim rack and Slurpee machine at the base of their bed.â€ Billâ€™s speech was a long, brilliantly-crafted and perfectly-delivered effort to paint over that image and present a new one. …
In sum, he painted a portrait of someone who deserves to be elected, if you believe the portrait. But do you?
Billâ€™s whole speech led up to that question, and he did not leave it hanging. Using the Tom Sawyer approach he has honed over decades, he asked it directly. He said that he had just described a person who was very different from the person Republicans described last week. That means one of them is real, oneâ€™s a cartoon. The question is, which picture is the real Hillary? He answered that question in his quietest, most sincere tones, biting his lip and inviting empathy.
It was the work of a master salesman. He brought the buyers into the showroom, showed them a â€œgreat buy, exactly what you needâ€ and pointed out all the bells and whistles. But he cannot close the deal himself. Heâ€™s not running; Hillary is, and she lacks Billâ€™s rhetorical gifts and zest for campaigning. He loves to touch the flesh; she recoils from it. She is a grating, hectoring speaker and a far less effective campaigner than Bill Clinton (or Donald Trump). Now that Bill has primed the customers, the big question is â€œCan Hillary close the deal?â€
Read the whole thing.