Twitter dazzled, dismayed by Bill Clinton's star turn at DNC

With his speech at the Democratic National Convention, the former president shows that he still knows how to rock a lectern. The Twitterati weigh in.

Edward Moyer Senior Editor
Edward Moyer is a senior editor at CNET and a many-year veteran of the writing and editing world. He enjoys taking sentences apart and putting them back together. He also likes making them from scratch. ¶ For nearly a quarter of a century, he's edited and written stories about various aspects of the technology world, from the US National Security Agency's controversial spying techniques to historic NASA space missions to 3D-printed works of fine art. Before that, he wrote about movies, musicians, artists and subcultures.
  • Ed was a member of the CNET crew that won a National Magazine Award from the American Society of Magazine Editors for general excellence online. He's also edited pieces that've nabbed prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists and others.
Edward Moyer
2 min read
Bill Clinton at the DNC.
Enlarge Image
Bill Clinton at the DNC.

Bill Clinton at the DNC.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

If you're old enough to remember Bill Clinton campaigning for president by playing his saxophone on a late-night talk show, you know what a crowd-pleaser he can be.

And if you're not old enough but you watched his speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, you may well know it too.

Of course, you need not have watched the speech, you could've simply checked out America's virtual town square, Twitter, where people were more than happy to weigh in on the former president's (and possible future first gentleman's) performance.

Twitter and other social media networks have changed the way the public discusses politics, much the way email and websites changed the way candidates reached out to voters. Conversations that once took place over the office water cooler now happen in real-time. And rather than one-to-one conversations, Twitter and Facebook allow voters to speak to many people at the same time.

Clinton, who spoke in support of his wife, Hillary, the newly anointed Democratic nominee for president, gave the public plenty to talk about.

He started his speech on a personal note, relating his romance with Hillary: "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl...." The down-home approach seemed to work with at least some of the Twitterati...

...although some weren't swayed.

From that opening, Clinton began alternating between the courtship story and the story of Hillary's long life in public service. Eventually, the narrative of Hillary's commitment to bringing about positive change came to dominate Clinton's remarks (and he spawned a hashtag, #TheRealOne). The personal note remained, however, even if the tone became more serious.

The apparently effortless and casual way in which Clinton delivered his speech seemed to accomplish, at least for some, what may well have been a very conscious strategy: to humanize Hillary...

...and to present her to voters who weren't even born when Bill played his horn.

And again, Clinton's masterfully affable stage presence seemed to get through to at least some people, perhaps even in spite of themselves.

Others, though, acknowledged Clinton's stagecraft but pointed to the bits he'd left out of his narrative (more than one tweeter brought up Clinton's infamous affair with Monica Lewinsky).

And of course, there was no way some folks were going to buy Clinton's remarks.

Incredible performance or no, Clinton's speech would seem to have made it difficult for anyone to deny that Billz has more than his share of charisma. Even after all these years: