Clinton’s address: The speech vs. the script

SHARE Clinton’s address: The speech vs. the script

Former President Bill Clinton speaks on stage during day two of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Former President Bill Clinton’s Wednesday night address enthralled Democratic National Convention attendees, even as he added portions on the fly and spoke longer than was planned. But which parts were improvised?

According to a transcript on the website Buzzfeed, Clinton winged a quip that found its way into scads of morning headlines, when he declared “it takes some brass” for Republicans to blast President Obama for Medicare changes also included in vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget.

Clinton struck to the script for maybe the biggest takeaway from the speech, in which he summed up the Republican campaign message as: “We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

But other big sound bites weren’t in the speech’s final draft — including his charge that past Republican budgets “defied arithmetic” and a folksy reference to his Arkansas upbringing, “where people still thought two and two was four.”

That off-script, down-home charm was a big part of the speech’s success, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne writes, describing Clinton’s role at the convention as that of an “explainer-in-chief.”

That Clinton, the cheerful political educator, played such a central role at this conclave reflected the extent to which it should be seen as a three-day tutorial designed not only to defend President Obama’s economic stewardship but also to advance a view of government for which, over the past 40 years, Democrats have often apologized.

Republicans hit back Thursday when Mitt Romney’s campaign issued a statement saying, “President Clinton’s speech brought the disappointment and failure of President Obama’s time in office clearly into focus,” The statement also criticized Obama’s economic record and efforts at bipartisanship.

In case any Chicagoans were wondering, Clinton’s mention of Chicago’s infrastructure trust — still a controversial topic here — was also off-the-cuff, as was an applause line on the economy early in the speech:

“When you stifle human potential, when you don’t invest in new ideas, it doesn’t just cut off the people who are affected. It hurts us all,” Clinton said.

Also added on the podium were the former president’s remarks last week’s Republican convention, including his conclusion that the GOP if elected will “keep every commitment they’ve made. We’ve just got to make sure the American people know what those commitments are.”

Still other additions jazzed up some phrasing to encourage a gift-and-take with the audience and revealed his personal take on Medicare and the national debt.

See the whole speech, as well as a wrap-up of all Wednesday’s speeches here.

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