“Everything I learned in my eight years as president has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job.”

Well it was about time. Ten minutes into Bill Clinton’s nervously awaited speech to the convention, he finally cracked it to say those two little words necessary to seal up the breach below the Democratic waterline: “he’s ready”.

The hall erupted. They’d already given the guy a five minute standing ovation, but that had been beyond anyone’s control, that was the force of pure love coming through. The moment the bloke was on the podium, trim, focused, red skin and white haired like some old southern gentleman, everyone just lost it, and it took a while to get some semblance of control back.

He began with a few weak jokes — I’m just here to warm up for Joe Biden — and then he got into the by now familiar rundown of how the Bush lack-of-administration had screwed everything up, reduced us to eating twigs, no-one likes us etc etc.

It was pretty low key, and there were a few mutterings in the room about whether he still had it, whether he was going to deliver — was this old tired Bill, post zipper job?

But then he threw in the stuff about a leader we need and Obama being that leader and the whole place went ape-sh-t.

Then he rolled out what Obama would do, how his policies were better — everything I learned in the White House, uh oh, enough of that it’s what he never learnt in the WH that comes to mind.

But then he really started to lift it to the roof, in a return to a denunciation in detail of the Bush era — indeed of the last quarter century of Republicanism.

“Once they got control of both houses in 2001 the country really saw what they were like.”

Then suddenly the old Bill was back, the hell raiser. “The parents of autistic children who have to quit their jobs or divorce to get Medicare, the military families torn apart by repeated deployments – are these the family values the Republicans talk about?”

Then he lifted it from there, the old firebrand from the 90s, reminding us how singular he had been in his own victories, portraying the way Amercian could be…

“The world has always been more impressed by the power of our example than the example of our power…”

“Barack Obama has been born on the right side of history and the opportunities he has been given he will give to millions as President…”

“…as we progress towards a more perfect union… I will always believe that America must be a place called hope…”

And the hall erupted again.

Whatever its half truths, confusions or fudges that are the inevitable part of any discussion of the American example, it was a powerful thing. Bill had delivered, and a million or so buttocks could unclench.

So now the unity is official, first Hillary and then Bill getting the thing in line and pointed forward. Whatever Clintonite dissidents the GOP can dig up would have to be utterly marginal.

But will they get out on the stump? Or is this as good as it gets? Knowing the Clintons, knowing how they embody the best and worst of mainstream left politics, they will do their bit, unless it looks like the campaign is going down screaming, at which point they will disappear, already focused on ’12.

But last night and tonight they gave what only they can give, and that is not nothing, that is not nothing at all.

Peter Fray

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