NPR Political Director Oozes Over Clinton Speech: As 'Robust and Effective' As He Could Imagine

On Thursday's Diane Rehm show on NPR stations, NPR political director Ron Elving was truly beside himself in praising the Bill Clinton speech on Wednesday night,  going so far that he presumed Democrats said to themselves at every pause for the next gem of wisdom, "What'll that be, Daddy?"

Elving began by oozing "That was about as full-throated, robust and effective, to use your word, a defense of President Obama as I can imagine. I don't know very many people who were seeing it as inadequate last night... frankly, there are things Barack Obama can do as a speaker. We all know that. But he has not been particularly good at his own defense. This was hiring the right attorney at the right time in the right courtroom."


Elving was amazed at Clinton's wonky level of detail: "And then he started walking through another long set of statistics, but in that Bill Clinton way where he is a little bit Southern preacher, a little bit soul singer, a little bit, 'Hey, are you with me now?' And, you know, 'you're having a good time now, but wait till I tell you this next thing. 'The audience kind of stops and gasps like, oh, what'll that be, Daddy? And he's got them right there."

Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Williamson joined in on the Clinton fawning frenzy: "On the jobs front, there could hardly be an individual more tailor-made to address the jobs question that the Republicans repeatedly raised vis-a-vis Obama's candidacy. I mean, he talked about those 66 million jobs created over the 52 years, and he talked about how 24 million of them were created by Republicans but 42 million created by Democrats. And this coming from a president who had the highest job growth in 30 years during his presidency, it could hardly be more effective."

No one on the program, from Diane Rehm the host, to the guests, to the callers, thought Clinton failed or was too much of a moral failure to be hailed in this excessive way. Instead, the "negative" portion was Rehm wondering if Clinton was so awesome he'd make Obama look bad:

REHM: And just picking up on that last point, Ron Elving, here's a question from -- that was posted online from John, who says, "Did Clinton's effectiveness last night expose a general weakness in the Obama campaign? Should they be explaining more as Clinton did, or is that something they really could not do even if they tried? After last night, does Clinton become a more active and visible surrogate for the campaign?" Ron Elving.

ELVING: ....I don't think anyone disputes that, including the Obama campaign. Is it possible for them to do it as effectively as Bill Clinton did last night? That's why people have lawyers. You cannot defend yourself as well as someone who's that good at it can defend you.

Other speakers were also praised. Sandra Fluke? Elving said "I wish I could do as well as she did last night."

What about Michelle Obama? How did she compare to Ann Romney: Williamson said Romney was ineffective....basically because she hasn't held a job:

WILLIAMSON: It felt like Ann Romney was appealing to an entirely different segment of America. It felt like some sort of '50s kind of housewife appeal. It was charming. It was effective. But at the same time, it was not nearly the sort of modern approach taken by Michelle Obama in her very powerful speech.

I mean, she talked about people, as did Ann Romney, about trying to make ends meet, trying to -- single parents, people trying to put kids through school, get them through college. But coming from Michelle Obama, who comes from that background, it is just so much more powerful.

Elving also praised the First Lady's passion: "Even Bill Clinton last night said, the man was cool on the outside, but, oh, he does burn for America on the inside. Yeah. Well, you know, you don't have to remind people about that with Michelle Obama. And so I think she had the larger task. I think she had the more passionate presentation. And you know what else? She's just got to be awfully good."

What about DNC keynoter Julian Castro? Again, Williamson said he was a much more effective Latino  than those "forced" Republicans: "Being on the floor in Tampa and seeing, you know, one Hispanic leader after another being put forward, there was a forced sense there. There was a sense of look who we have on our team, whereas this seemed effortless. He got up. He told his story. It was authentic, it was genuine, it was passionate, and it really made the case more than six [GOP] speakers who come from similar backgrounds."

At the end of all this pro-Democrat palaver, a liberal caller said to Rehm, "You do a phenomenal job trying to create some balance."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis