I made it onto the Pepsi Center floor on Wednesday in time to see Melissa Etheridge belt out a medley of "God Bless America," "The Times They Are A-Changin'," "Give Peace a Chance" and "Born in the U.S.A." -- for the latter, she left out all the stuff about killing the yellow man, shockingly enough. She was followed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who re-established his reputation as the most boring man in American politics, and former senator Tom Daschle, who finished his remarks early. Bill Clinton was up next, but since convention honchos wanted him to begin speaking just after 9 p.m. Eastern, the band killed a few minutes with a rendition of what struck me as an oddly chosen tune: "Chain of Fools." Did that pertain to the people who'd already stepped to the podium? Or the ones coming up? Oh -- neither. My bad. Sorry about that.
Those who saw Clinton speak on television no doubt understood that he was well-recieved -- but in the hall, this affection seemed practically pathological. The Dems love this guy -- love him. And why? Well, he's a great speaker -- the only one I saw at the convention who was entirely at ease expanding upon, adding to or riffing on his prepared text. On top of that, his detours consistently made his remarks more effective. Still, I think his success may be the biggest reason for the esteem in which he's held. A lot of people in that room had run for president -- but he won. And not just once, like Jimmy Carter. He's a two-termer -- and the members of his party would have gladly signed up for more. When the attendees started chanting "Bill! Bill! Bill!," the only surprise for me was that they didn't transition into "Four more years!"
Of course, he has his weaknesses, as the band unwittingly emphasized with another quizzical selection, played shortly after he left the stage: "Addicted to Love." To use a term Clinton can understand, that was a real boner.
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Look below to see a shot of the rapturous masses during Clinton's speech. -- Michael Roberts