09/21/2012 11:57 am ET Updated Nov 21, 2012

Bill Clinton's Big Message to America


Americans watching Bill Clinton address the Democratic convention were reminded that throughout the presidencies, since the inauguration of John Kennedy, the Democratic presidents created tens of millions more jobs than the Republican presidents, while a Republican president named Dwight Eisenhower supported efforts for equal rights and construction of roads that are anathema to Republicans today.

Media pundits often view the appeal and success of President Clinton in horizontal and tactical terms (is he moving left or right?), but the political greatness of Bill Clinton is that he views the world and addresses voters in vertical and historical terms (correctly describing President Obama as part of a long history of Democratic presidents who created far more jobs than Republican presidents, and correctly describing today's Republicans as extreme in ways Republicans historically were not).

When President Clinton uses the word "hate" to describe Republican attacks on President Obama, he knows whereof he speaks. Attacks by Republicans against President Clinton began shortly after his inauguration, continued through an impeachment attack against him and included unusually personal broadsides against his wife, Hillary Clinton, and his vice president, Al Gore. Sound familiar?

I believe historians will place President Clinton in the ranks of first-tier presidents. He rose above the ugly attacks against him and met the challenges of the modern economy, creating a decade of huge job growth that ended with the Republican president who succeeded him, and leaving a big budget surplus that was destroyed by the Republican president and Republican Congress that followed him.

Bill Clinton is the nation's most powerful and credible advocate for anyone aspiring to the presidency. He is one of only 44 people who ever served as president. Voters remember that he was very good at it and that America prospered because of it.

Michelle Obama's magnificent convention speech was powerful testimony to the story of Barack Obama as a person, husband, father and president; Bill Clinton's spectacular convention speech was powerful testimony for Barack Obama as a president and leader who ended monthly job losses measured in the hundreds of thousands, which was the legacy of George W. Bush, and began a new era of job creation.

Bill Clinton's big message is that we want an America where we are in this together, not an America where it is every man for himself, and the way to achieve this is to reelect the president, not bring to power the party that tries to demonize everyone it opposes.

Bill Clinton's big message is that Barack Obama is a worthy legatee of a great tradition of liberal Democratic presidents and even moderate Republican presidents such as Eisenhower.

Bill Clinton's big message is this: Under President Obama, things are getting better. Stick with President Obama and things will be OK. The American economy will thrive again. Morning in America will arrive again.

Bill Clinton's big message is this: Do we want to return to America to losing 700,000 jobs a month, which is what President Obama inherited, or continue creating new jobs every month, which is what President Obama began?

Democrats are proud of President Clinton. We are proud of his partner and current secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. We are proud of our 2004 nominee, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), a statesman called to make an important prime-time speech for President Obama and Vice President Biden, another legatee of the great tradition. We are proud of President Kennedy, and his daughter Caroline, and the late lion of the Senate, Ted Kennedy. They all give powerful testimony on behalf of President Obama.

Who do Republicans offer to answer President Clinton? It is not their last president, George W. Bush, or his vice president, Richard B. Cheney. It is not their earlier president, George H.W. Bush, or his vice president, Dan Quayle. It is not their last nominee for vice president, Sarah Palin. Trump? Perry? Gingrich? Cain? Santorum? McConnell? Cantor? Akin?

Can anyone remember what Mitt Romney said in his acceptance speech one week ago?

Bill Clinton was a brilliantly successful president who offers a big message in support of Barack Obama. It is a message as large as Kennedy's New Frontier, as good as the jobs created under Clinton, as noble as the "in this together" spirit of both Roosevelts. It is a big message that remains alive in the presidency of Barack Obama, which President Clinton calls on Americans to continue for a second term.

A version of this column was originally published at The Hill.