9:42pm 8/13/2009President Clinton just took the stage at Netroots Nation, opening with a joke about how many Republicans think President Obama was born in the United States, teeing off earlier remarks by Rep. Brad Miller. Then he turned serious, crediting the netroots for playing a constructive role in American politics.
"I’d like to thank you for what you do and the contribution you have made to dramatically elevating of our public discourse and the base level of knowledge of people [in politics]," he said at the top of his speech. "I keep a file with me on economics and a file on energy," Clinton continued, "I was looking it through it the other day and was stunned at the number of articles that came from blog sites."
Clinton also credited bloggers for being candid about their policy and partisan preferences. Bloggers takes sides, he told the crowd, and "you don’t have to pretend you’re not [taking sides]."
The former president turned to a few general issues, saying he hoped to provide "grist" for the mills of the netroots. "It matters whether this Congress passes a comprehensive health care reform bill for this President to sign," Clinton said, to applause, and he later said he has always favored a public option for health care reform.
Clinton declared that the new era of progressive politics could last 30 to 40 years "if we do it right." He reminisced about his time working for Sen. William Fulbright, and noted that after 1968 Republicans managed to build a long-term coalition based on cultural division and corporate economics. Then, taking a page out of the Fox News playbook, Clinton jokingly hurled the c-word at one opponent, arguing that President Nixon looked like a "communist" compared to later, more conservative Republicans.
Then, ticking through recent politics, Clinton credited his successor, George W. Bush, for tapping a new mood in the country by promising compassionate conservatism and a more open, tolerant stance towards immigrants. (Clinton also took a moment to knock Bush v. Gore as "one of the five worst decisions" ever handed down by the Supreme Court.) "America is a different place today," Clinton continued, stressing that "the culture" is now with progressives, based on racial progress and global interdependence. The U.S. will have no "majority race" by 2050, Clinton added.