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CHARLOTTE -- Former President Bill Clinton, who left office nearly 12 years ago with balanced budgets and surpluses, told an ecstatic crowd at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday that, despite his own economic battles, he never faced an economic storm like the one President Obama has.
"Listen to me,'' he said. "No President, no President -- not me, not any of my predecessors -- could have repaired all the damage that he found in just four years.''
Mr. Obama's campaign motto has been "Forward,'' but Democrats used the second day of the convention to look back, briefly uniting on one stage two presidents of different eras -- one a period of relative peace and prosperity, the other of economic stagnation and war.
Mr. Obama walked out onto the stage just as Mr. Clinton closed his speech. The elder president bowed to the new generation. They waved to the crowd and then walked off together.
While the night closed on a note of unity, it started out with an unscripted note of dissension. Amid boos, a half-filled but divided arena reopened the Democratic platform it adopted just a day earlier to address Republican criticism it had been stripped of any reference to God or to Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel.
Mr. Clinton formally placed Mr. Obama's name into nomination at the convention and then proceeded to make the case that America must stay the course, likening it to the country's faith in him when they re-elected him in 1996.
He called President Obama's plan "a heck of a lot better'' than what Republican nominee Mitt Romney has offered and attempted to turn GOP calls for deficit reduction against them.
"Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the national debt before I took office … and doubled it after I left. ...,'' he said. "We simply can't afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double-down on trickle-down.''
Turning to the Michigan and Ohio delegations to his left, he declared, "The auto industry restructuring worked,'' to huge cheers.
"It saved more than a million jobs, and not just at GM, Chrysler, and their dealerships, but in auto-parts manufacturing all over the country,'' he said. "That's why even the auto-makers that weren't part of the deal supported it. They needed to save those parts suppliers, too. Like I said, we're all in this together.
"So what's happened?'' he asked. "Now there are 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than the day the companies were restructured. Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. So here's another jobs score: Obama, 250,000. Romney, zero.''
Mr. Clinton's key role at the convention stood in sharp contrast to the absence of former President George W. Bush at last week's Republican National Convention.
"The historical reference points will be enlightening, especially for people who didn't live through it -- the end of the Clinton era, the Bush era, and what President Obama has had to clean up,'' U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said.
Hillary Clinton was not in the audience as her husband spoke, missing her first Democratic convention in 40 years. Secretaries of state are prohibited under federal law from attending political conventions.
The convention culminates today with Mr. Obama's acceptance of his party's nomination. The threat of thunderstorms, however, prompted Democrats to cancel plans to have him give his speech under the open sky of Bank of America Stadium and move the convention back into smaller Time Warner Cable Arena.
Tens of thousands of nondelegates who'd acquired tickets for the stadium event now won't get in.
The second day of the convention began when former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who was chairman of the platform drafting committee, stood to offer an amendment to add the language reinserting God and Jerusalem back into the platform.
"As an ordained United Methodist minister, I am here to attest and to infirm that our faith and belief in God is central to the American story and informs the values that we expressed in our party's platform,'' he said. "In addition, President Obama recognizes that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and our party's platform should as well.''
The amendment was declared accepted after multiple close voice votes that made it difficult to tell whether it was passing or failing.
"Mitt Romney has consistently stated his belief that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,'' Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said. "Although today's voice vote at the Democratic National Convention was unclear, the Democratic Party has acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
"President Obama has repeatedly refused to say the same himself,'' she said. "Now is the time for President Obama to state in unequivocal terms whether or not he believes Jerusalem is Israel's capital."
Democrats presented the amendment as a clarification, but its ultimate acceptance drew boos.
Among the numerous other speakers was Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization. She joined other nuns last summer on a multistate tour to argue that the cuts in the House-passed federal budget authored by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), Mr. Romney's running mate, would cause great suffering.
"While we were in Toledo, I met 10-year-old twins Matt and Mark, who had gotten into trouble at school for fighting," she said. "Sister Virginia and the staff at the Padua Center took them in when they were suspended and discovered on a home visit that these 10-year-olds were trying to care for their bedridden mother who has [multiple sclerosis] and diabetes,'' she said. "They were her only caregivers.
"The sisters got her medical help and are giving the boys some stability,'' she said.
"Now the boys are free to claim much of their childhood they were losing. Clearly, we all share responsibility for the Matts and Marks in our nation.''
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com, or 614-221-0496.