WASHINGTON (AP) - Few people ever have logged more time on Democratic National Convention stages than Bill Clinton.
But when the former president delivered his 11th speech to his party's faithful on Tuesday, it was like none they've seen since he was a relative national unknown from Arkansas four decades ago. It was brief.
Clinton's address at the virtual convention was limited to just five minutes — hardly enough time for the famously loquacious Clinton to get warmed up. The remarks came before the time slots reserved for brighter stars, including presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden's wife, Jill.
Clinton’s opened his speech by criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Donald Trump says we’re leading the world. Well, we are the only major industrial economy to have its unemployment rate triple," Clinton said. "At a time like this, the Oval Office should be a command center. Instead, it’s a storm center. There’s only chaos. Just one thing never changes — his determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame. The buck never stops there.”
While his remarks were brief, Clinton's appearance is tricky for his party.
In the #MeToo era, as Democrats are focused on overt appeals to female voters, putting Clinton on stage is problematic for Democrats, given the numerous accusations of sexual misconduct against him.
Clinton, who turns 74 on Wednesday, is still three years younger than Biden and remains a force within the party — even though it has left behind many of the market-based reforms and centrism he popularized in the 1990s.
Clinton was a visible part of the 2016 convention and campaign, even as Trump repeatedly raised the former president's past — and invited a group of Clinton's accusers to attend a debate. The move was an attempt to counter the criticism Trump received after video surfaced of Trump bragging about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women who weren’t his wife.
But Tuesday at the DNC, Clinton was on the offensive with hopes of leveraging independent voters by pointing out what many of Trump’s critics have called the last four years, “complete chaos.”
“Our party is united in offering you a very different choice: a go-to-work president. A down-to-earth, get-the-job-done guy," Clinton said. "A man with a mission: to take responsibility, not shift the blame; concentrate, not distract; unite, not divide. Our choice is Joe Biden.”