GateHouse News Service
Reacting to the chorus of praise for the convention speech delivered by Bill Clinton, Democrats hastily voted to change their party platform for a second time in less than a week, replacing the word “God” with the words “Bill Clinton.”
Moments after convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa formally gaveled in the change, Democratic lawmakers burst into cheer - with some even pushing to name Hope, Ark., the birthplace of Mr. Clinton, as the capital of Israel.
Mr. Villaraigosa called the vote three times, allowing him and his fellow Democrats to linger a little longer in the afterglow of contentment Mr. Clinton’s convention performance had delivered.
And when Mr. Villaraigosa finally announced, “the ays have it,” boisterous chants of “Bill, Bill, Bill” erupted from the gathering of Democrats, who had convened in front of the Jefferson Memorial for the occasion, their numbers spilling across the south bank of the Tidal Basin and into downtown Washington, D.C.
A campaign official for President Barack Obama said the commander in chief had personally requested that the words “Bill Clinton” be put into the platform after Mr. Clinton’s rousing defense of Mr. Obama. “Why didn’t they change that sooner?” the president said, according to the official, when he heard that God’s name had been removed to make room for Mr. Clinton’s.
Mr. Obama said he remains a devout Christian and that his faith is an integral part of his daily life, but that “no one, not me, not God, could make a better case for my first term than Bill Clinton.”
The change came as Democrats spent the days following Mr. Clinton’s convention speech fretting over whether they were missing a political opportunity by playing it safe and hitching their platform to God when going all in with Mr. Clinton was the smarter play for carrying Ohio in November.
The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, said in a statement that the change was made to “maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the president, the Democratic Party, and even God himself following Bill Clinton’s speech last week.”
A senior administration official emphasized that the president had intervened to bring the platform in line with his own vision. “The president expressed his view after the speech, and it hasn’t changed,” the official said. “Last week proved that there is no one – including any deity – who has as much import in the daily lives of Democrats than Bill Clinton. And that plank of the platform has not changed since last week.”
Robert Gibbs, an adviser to the Obama campaign, sought to downplay the notion that Democrats were forsaking their spiritual well-being simply for a bump in the polls by substituting the words “Bill Clinton” for “God” in the platform.
Page 2 of 2 - “There’s talk throughout the platform about faith in Bill Clinton and of our getting religion about the 42nd president, and I think that’s what’s important,” Mr. Gibbs said, adding that it would have been nothing less than sacrilegious not to have given Mr. Clinton the nod over God after the former president’s speech earned higher ratings than the N.F.L. season opener.
In voting to put the words “Bill Clinton” in the platform, the Democrats amended a section to say that it is the government’s role to help people reach their “Bill Clinton-given potential.”
While the removal of “God-given” leaves the platform once again without any references to God and offers Republicans a target to paint Democrats as out of touch with family values, the party of Mr. Clinton had a counteroffensive at the ready.
After Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney praised Mr. Clinton’s speech during an appearance on “Meet the Press” - suggesting that Mr. Clinton’s performance outshone President Obama’s speech at the convention - Democrats challenged Republicans to replace the 12 mentions of “God” in the GOP platform with the words “Bill Clinton.”
Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney’s vice presidential running mate, acknowledged that not including the words “Bill Clinton” at least as many times as “God” in the RNC platform was “rather peculiar” and “not in keeping with our founding documents, our founding vision.”
“I can understand the Democrats’ troubles,” he said. “That was a God-like performance, and not to at least acknowledge that in the party platform – even if it means excising the word ‘God’ – would be unthinkable. Fortunately, we are not facing that dilemma.”
The newly energized Democratic Party said it planned to spend the next few weeks basking in the radiance of Mr. Clinton and dreaming of new ways to worship the former president.
“I’m not sure where we can go after God,” said one representative, “but I’m sure Bill is going to show us.”
Philip Maddocks writes political satire and humor for GateHouse Media and can be reached at email@example.com.