Old and new Democratic champions Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have buried the hatchet and joined forces to deliver a rousing call for change six days out from the US election.
At a midnight rally in Kissimmee near Orlando, Florida, the former president said Obama represented “America's future” as he exhorted the crowd of 35,000 to defeat Republican John McCain next Tuesday.
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“The presidential campaign is the greatest job interview in the world. And on Tuesday, you get to make the hire,” Clinton said as he introduced his wife Hillary's conqueror during the Democratic nominating primaries.
“This is not a close question. If you make the decision based on who can best get us out of the ditch… I think it's clear the next president should be, and with your help will be, Senator Barack Obama,” he said.
Clinton swallowed his bitter resentment at his wife's defeat to give his first full-throated endorsement of Obama at the Democratic convention in August, and followed up in Florida by savaging the Republicans' handling of the economy.
'Cool head in a crisis'
He compared the prosperity of his own White House tenure during the 1990s to the economic crisis now engulfing the United States.
He said that Obama, confronted with the crisis, had turned to his advisors – including Clinton-era officials – for advice on what was the best approach for the nation rather than what was the politically expedient choice.
“That's what a president does in a crisis: what is right for America,” he said, while attacking McCain for calling Obama a quasi-socialist “redistributionist” over his tax policies.
Under President George W Bush, Clinton said, the Republicans “just presided over the biggest redistribution of wealth upwards since the 1920s, and we all know how that ended… So don't tell me about redistribution”.
“What Senator Barack Obama has is a plan that works from the bottom up. We made more millionaires and billionaires than they did… because middle-class incomes were rising, and that's what Barack Obama will do again.”
Clinton 'political genius'
Obama, praising the former president as a “political genius” and lauding Hillary Clinton too, said it was time to turn back to the future as the presidential election looms.
“When you listen to Bill Clinton, you are reminded of what it's like to have a president who's passionate, who's smart… who has energy, who has vision,” the Illinois senator said.
“You start getting nostalgic about 22 million new jobs and a budget surplus and an economy that's working for everyone. Andthat's why we can't have four more years like the eight we've just had,” he said.
“It's time for the kind of peace and prosperity that we saw in the 1990s,” Obama added. “We've dug a deep hole, and George Bush wants to turn the shovel over to John McCain.”
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