Amy Sullivan got it too.
When the Big Dog howled last night, he did reached out to religious people as well. It must have been deliberate. After all, Clinton spoke on the same night as Reverend Alston, a former shipmate of John Kerry, quoted Psalm 27 by saying "Though an army beseige me, my heart shall not fear."
You expect preaching from someone like Reverend Alston, but the rap on Democrats has long been that we're, well, too secular and don't care enough about God and church and faith. That's simply not true--it's more that the Christians among us aren't generally of the "if you don't believe my way you're going straight to hell" variety. We tend to focus on the loving God part of Christianity.
So it was with a certain amount of pride that I recognized the same spiritual themes that Amy Sullivan did in Bill Clinton's speech last night. Sullivan has already broken them down so I'll just quote her here.
"Send Me" Clinton began with this passage -- "During the Vietnam War, many young men--including the current president, the vice president, and me--could have gone to Vietnam but didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background and could have avoided it, too. Instead, he said, 'send me.'" He continued on, outlining Kerry's lifetime of public service by noting that everytime his country has asked something of him, John Kerry has replied, "Send me." It was a nice little phrase for the audience to yell back at Clinton, but it comes from the prophet Isaiah (6:8) -- "Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Using the Talents In a short section promoting John Edwards, Clinton described the vice presidential nominee as a man "who has used his talents to improve the lives of people." That's a reference to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25) and a subtle dig at Bush, a man who has been given much and of whom nothing much has been expected. In the parable, the servant who uses his talents is praised by God ("Well done, my good and faithful servant"), but the one who hides his talents away for himself is shamed.
A Time to Choose This last was Clinton's most subtle use of religious rhetoric, echoing Ecclesiastes 3, which begins "There is a time for everything" and then lists choices in pairs. For the most part, the poet begins with more destructive choices -- "a time to tear" or "a time for war" -- and ends with hopeful ones -- "a time to mend" or "a time for peace". There is time to disagree, Clinton said, and we've tried it your way, but now it's time to come together.
In the end, it was a brilliant speech. The cadence of his voice, the way he used his own example about the tax cuts and how they affected him, the way he set up the coming election as a set of choices and not an us v. them dichotomy--all of that showed why he was and remains the best political campaigner of the last 50 years. Is there any doubt in anyone's mind that Clinton, even with all the impeachment baggage, wouldn't have wiped the floor with Dubya if he'd been able to run again? It wouldn't have even been close.