Would Be Devastating If They Used It

The 24 and the 42 million, and Basic Competence

Bill Clinton's rare skill of messaging and explanation should not be so rare.

Bill Clinton, I will say it again, was great. It may have been the best convention speech ever. I mean that. And I'm no Clinton swooner. I was lukewarm in 1992. At best. He grew on me over the years, and I am certainly a fan now, but my point is I didn't take my first look at the guy and go gaga. But the speech was a work of brilliance on every level.

That said, it's somewhat depressing that we consider that speech so brilliant. What did he do, after all? He relayed a set of facts that make his party's case and demolish the other party's case, and he did it in a folksy way. What should this be so hard? Shouldn't every decent pol be able to do this? It's their job. But the Democrats as a whole are really bad at this very basic task.

Take the statistics Clinton noted toward the beginning of the speech. Since 1960, Republicans have controlled the White House 28 years, and the Democrats 24. And in those years, Democratic administrations have created 42 million jobs, and Republican ones 24 million jobs. This, according to a Bloomberg analysis of BLS data, is accurate and true.

It's a devastating set of numbers--and by the way, the stock market has performed better during Democratic tenures as well, as another Bloomberg analysis showed that returns on investment under Democrats have done about nine times better than under Republicans). And yet, no one in America knows. No one. Why why why why why haven't the Democrats spent years pounding this home? This should be the first talking point out of the mouth of every Democrat who ever goes on TV to discuss anything. And yet I've never heard Obama or anyone else say it.

I was emailing with a friend who consults with many members of Congress on substantive and strategic questions, and he wrote: "I've found that politicians rarely have good rhetorical skills, have little ability to read an audience, can't read a speech, and have no idea about messaging. And forget about speaking to a convention audience in front of millions of people on TV. Politicians know how to avoid answering questions, but not how to proactively get messages out in a way that resonates."

That's just amazing to me. Clinton should not be such a rarity. Now let's place a bet that we never hear this 24/42 comparison again, except from Clinton, between now and Election Day. Ay yi yi.