CHARLOTTE, N.C. — How did Bill Clinton manage to run nearly 20 minutes past the scheduled end of his speech to the Democratic National Convention? Simple: He ad-libbed extensively, thus chewing up 48 minutes with what was supposed to have been a half-hour speech.
White House staffers reportedly had edited Clinton’s advance text for length, but when he started talking, he evidently decided to add back in a lot of what had been cut out. Dashiell Bennett of The Atlantic Monthly did a line-by-line comparison of the scripted version and what Clinton actually said, demonstrating the maestro’s method for hogging the spotlight. For example, the prepared, White House-approved text of Clinton’s remarks had him saying this:
When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. After all, nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day. All of us are destined to live our lives between those two extremes.
That’s 47 words. What Clinton actually said was much longer:
And so here’s what I want to say to you, and here’s what I want the people at home to think about. When times are tough, and people are frustrated and angry and hurting and uncertain, the politics of constant conflict may be good. But what is good politics does not necessarily work in the real world. What works in the real world is cooperation. What works in the real world is cooperation, business and government, foundations and universities. Ask the mayors who are here. Los Angeles is getting green and Chicago is getting an infrastructure bank because Republicans and Democrats are working together to get it. They didn’t check their brains at the door. They didn’t stop disagreeing, but their purpose was to get something done. Now, why is this true? Why does cooperation work better than constant conflict? Because nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day. And every one of us — every one of us and every one of them, we’re compelled to spend our fleeting lives between those two extremes, knowing we’re never going to be right all the time and hoping we’re right more than twice a day.
That’s 199 words — four times as long as the scripted version, and by such on-the-fly additions to his official text, Clinton managed to push past the scheduled 11 p.m. Eastern end of his speech and extend his time on stage by an extra 18 minutes.