Stepping out of the shadows of presidents past, the former first lady, senator and vanquished-candidate-turned-secretary-of-state appeared unannounced on the platform at her nominating convention, pointed a finger at President Barack Obama and gave him a hug.
Clinton had just been anointed the inheritor of Obama’s legacy with his vigorous endorsement speech, the candidate who could realize the “promise of this great nation.”
“She’s been there for us, even if we haven’t always noticed,” Obama said Wednesday, imploring the country to elect the woman he defeated eight years ago.
Summoning his most famous line from that campaign, Obama said: “If you’re serious about our democracy, you can’t afford to stay home just because she might not align with you on every issue. You’ve got to get in the arena with her, because democracy isn’t a spectator sport. America isn’t about ‘Yes he will.’ It’s about ‘Yes we can.’”
Wednesday’s was the picture of diversity that Democrats have sought to frame the whole week: A black man symbolically seeking to hand the weightiest baton in the free world to a woman. It culminated a parade of speeches over the last 72 hours — from men and women, gay and straight, white, black and Hispanic; young and old — hoping to cast the Republicans as out-of-touch social conservatives led by an unhinged and unscrupulous tycoon.
Reeling off his greatest hits as president, from the auto industry bailout and health care overhaul to landmark deals on climate change and Iran’s nuclear program, Obama said the choice was between “a deeply pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from the rest of the world” and “the America I know.”
“There is only one candidate in this race who believes in that future, and has devoted her life to it,” Obama said.
Republican Donald Trump did his best to steal the spotlight Wednesday.
Following reports Russia hacked Democratic Party emails, Trump said he’d like to see Moscow find the thousands of emails Clinton deleted from the account she used as secretary of state. The appearance of him encouraging Russia to meddle in the presidential campaign enraged Democrats and Republicans, even as he dismissed suggestions from Obama and other Democrats that Moscow already was intervening on his behalf.
Trump’s comments fed Democrats’ contentions that the billionaire businessman is unqualified to be commander in chief. He has no national security experience and has breezily dismissed decades of U.S. foreign policy constants, like standing by NATO allies that long suffered under Russian domination. Yet in a scattershot news conference Wednesday, Trump tried to turn the table on Clinton, saying he believed it unsafe for her to receive national security briefings in light of her well-known email missteps while in office.
In Philadelphia, the Democrats’ heaviest hitters including Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, contrasted Trump’s unpredictability with their candidate’s steadiness.
Following former President Bill Clinton’s address a day earlier, they touted Hillary’s remarkable journey from young attorney and Arkansas governor’s wife to half of the two-for-one presidency that oversaw a booming economy, without mentioning the scandals; from New York lawmaker to defeated presidential hopeful; from America’s top diplomat to the first woman ever put forward by a major party for president.
“There’s only one person in this race who will be there, who’s always been there for you, and that’s Hillary Clinton’s life story,” Biden said.
“Hillary Clinton is ‘lista’,” said Kaine, a former Richmond mayor and Virginia governor who speaks fluent Spanish. “She’s ready because of her faith. She’s ready because of her heart. She’s ready because of her experience. She’s ready because she knows in America we are stronger when we are together.”
After a quarter-century just behind the men in charge, Clinton gets her turn alone with the American public on Thursday evening.
Many people don’t trust her, polls consistently show, a legacy perhaps of the Clintons’ 1990s-era controversies from the land deal known as Whitewater to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. To her detractors, Hillary’s dishonesty has only been reinforced by the revelations over her use of a private email server in government.
And some Democrats still aren’t convinced of her candidacy, either, after a difficult primary campaign against Bernie Sanders, a sentiment underscored by the protests of a small but boisterous set of Sanders’ supporters.
A consistent message has been Clinton’s perseverance. Obama noted his own bruising contest with Clinton in 2008, hailing his erstwhile rival’s toughness as a candidate and “her intelligence, her judgment and her discipline” as a team member.
For the all the praise of Clinton, Wednesday’s speakers spent significant time attacking her opponent.
“Trump says he wants to run the nation like he runs his business. God help us,” said former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, himself a billionaire entrepreneur and an independent whom Democrats called on to broaden Clinton’s appeal.
“Our strength, our greatness, does not depend on Donald Trump,” Obama said.
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Klapper contributed from Washington.
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