Obama says he won't tell Bill Clinton what to say

August 25, 2008 3:54:25 PM PDT
Barack Obama said Monday he will not be "aiming for a lot of high rhetoric" in his speech accepting the Democratic presidential nomination Thursday night. At the same time, he said he'd spoken to former President Clinton about the speech he'll give Wednesday night, saying he told Clinton he could talk about anything he likes.

"Bill Clinton knows a little bit about trying to yank the economy out of the doldrums," Obama said. "It wouldn't make sense for me to want to edit his remarks."

Obama also said that his two major goals for the convention are to draw a sharp contrast with Republican John McCain on economic issues and to help voters get to know him better.

"During the course of a 19-month campaign, I think that you're on the television screen, you're in big auditoriums, but sometimes who you are may get lost," the Illinois senator said. He said he expects his acceptance speech Thursday night to be something more "workmanlike" than the soaring oratory that catapulted him to the national stage at the 2004 Democratic gathering in Boston.

"I'm not aiming for a lot of high rhetoric," Obama said, adding that he would use his speech to help voters understand what he planned to do to improve the economy. Party standardbearers typically seek to lower expectations for such acceptance speeches.

Obama on Monday also sought to tamp down the lingering sense of strife between his campaign and supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying his erstwhile rival and her husband "couldn't have been more clear" in their support for his candidacy.

As the first day of the Democratic convention got under way in Denver, Obama appeared eager to address questions about the Clintons and dispel the notion that persistent bitterness over the long primary battle could threaten party unity going into November.

To do so, Obama held a news conference en route from a campaign event in Iowa, his first formal chat with reporters in over two weeks.

Despite the historic nature of the convention - Obama will be the first black major party presidential nominee - the days leading up to it have been suffused with Clintonian drama.

Many of Sen. Clinton's supporters are angry that Obama passed over the former first lady to choose Sen. Joe Biden as his running mate. And Sunday, tensions were simmering over the speech that her husband is to deliver to the convention. The former president was said to have preferred to address domestic issues, but the theme of Wednesday night's proceedings is foreign policy.

Speaking to reporters, Obama insisted that the convention would help convince Mrs. Clinton's supporters to get behind her candidacy.

"The fact is, we had a very hard fought primary. There are going to be some of Senator Clinton's supporters we have to work hard to persuade to come on board. That's not surprising," Obama said. "The Clintons love this country, they love the Democratic Party, and they are going to be active participants in our campaign for the remaining 70 days."

Nonetheless, Obama refused to say how seriously he had considered Hillary Clinton as a potential running mate, and he declined to say why she hadn't been formally vetted by his vice presidential search team. Clinton aides have indicated the New York senator refused to go through the vetting process unless she were likely to be asked to join Obama on the ticket.

On the Net:

Convention coverage from Eyewitness News
Barack Obama: http://www.barackobama.com
Democratic National Convention http://www.demconvention.com/
Convention videos from the DNCC http://www.demconvention.com/dncc-video/