WASHINGTON— Former U.S. President Bill Clinton urged Democrats and the American public to vote for his wife Hillary in November, saying that making her the first woman U.S. president will turn the United States into a stronger and better country.
Clinton’s July 26 speech before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and a nationwide television audience of millions was the star attraction during the second night of the four-day convention.
The speech was preceded by a long-anticipated roll-call vote of the more than 4,700 state delegates who formally annointed Hillary Clinton as the party's presidential candidate.
"Hillary will make us stronger together. You know it because she’s spent a lifetime doing it,” Bill Clinton said in a nearly 50-minute speech to a rapt audience.
“Those of us who have more yesterdays than tomorrow tend to care more about our children and grandchildren. The reason you should elect her is that in the greatest country on Earth, we have always been about tomorrow. Your children and grandchildren will bless you forever if you do,” he said.
The speech came a day after the convention got off to a shaky start, mostly due to lingering resentment and mistrust from supporters of Clinton’s primary challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders.
In a dramatic, symbolic gesture shortly before the delegate voting concluded, Sanders asked delegates to nominate Clinton by acclamation rather than continue the lengthy roll-call process. The convention agreed, making the nomination official.
Still, thousands of activists and his supporters took to the streets before and during the convention to voice support for the Vermont senator and to decry what many see as a rigged nominating process that sidelined Sanders.
Sanders had delivered an impassioned endorsement on the first night of the convention on July 25, telling delegates that Clinton "must become the next president of the United States."
Bill Clinton’s speech was highly anticipated by Democrats looking to inject more energy into both the convention and Hillary’s campaign. A speech the previous night by President Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, received rapturous applause.
If elected, Hillary Clinton would be not only the first female president of the United States but the first spouse of a president to return to the White House as president.
In his speech, Bill Clinton displayed his trademark folksy, homespun speaking style, recounting how he first met Hillary decades ago. The speech sought to humanize her, answering critics who say she is too cold or aloof.
After walking viewers through her career as a lawyer, first lady and White House adviser, U.S. senator, and secretary of state, Bill Clinton made the case that Hillary was a “change maker,” frequently contrasting her policies with those espoused by the Republican contender Donald Trump at the GOP's convention last week, where Hillary was frequently denounced as "crooked" and a "liar."
"How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention? What’s the difference between what I told you and what they said? You can’t. One is real. The other is made up,” he said. “You just have to decide, you just have to decide, which is which, my fellow Americans. The real one has done more positive change making before she was 30, than many public officials do in a lifetime in office."
“If you love this country, you're working hard, you’re paying taxes and obeying the law, and you'd like to become a citizen, you should choose immigration reform over someone who wants to send you back,” Clinton said. “If you’re a Muslim, if you’re a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us make America better, and make a future together, we want you.”
While the second day of the convention showed increasing unity among Democratic factions, the opening day had been marred not only by dissent from Sanders supporters but by the resignation of the convention’s chairwoman, who stepped down after a stunning e-mail leak last week.
Outside the convention hall, there was some lingering resentment among Sanders backers. Thousands rallied despite scorching summer temperatures, greeting arriving delegates and chanting at them.
Moments after Clinton received the formal nomination July 26, a large group of Sanders delegates walked out of the arena to hold a sit-in inside a media tent. Some had their mouths taped shut. Others said they were holding a peaceful protest to complain about being shut out by the Democratic Party.
In the streets, Sanders supporters faced off with police; some began scaling 8-foot walls blocking off the secure zone near the convention arena. One officer sprayed what appeared to be pepper spray at a protester.
"This was not a convention. This was a four-day Hillary party. And we weren't welcome," said one delegate, Liz Maratea from New Jersey. "We were treated like lepers."
Earlier in the night, delegates heard from another former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who poked at Trump, and made reference to the growing suspicions in the U.S. intelligence community that Russian government hackers were behind the embarassing Democratic National Committee e-mail leak.
“The truth is that a Trump victory in November would be a gift to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, and given what we’ve learned about the Russians' recent actions, Putin is eager to see Trump win,” said Albright, who served under Bill Clinton.
“And that should worry every American. Take it from someone who fled the Iron Curtain: I know what happens when you give the Russians a green light.”
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused U.S. politicians of being paranoid about Russia allegedly backing Trump.
Republicans, meanwhile, were enjoying the traditional post-convention bump in polling numbers for Trump.
A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released July 26 showed Trump two percentage points ahead of Clinton, the first time he has been ahead since early May.
Presidential candidates frequently receive an uptick in popularity after their party conventions, and Clinton is expected to experience something similar in coming days.