(CNSNews.com) - The delegates loved President Bill Clinton's speech to the Democratic National Convention, the pundits praised it as a fitting valedictory, but the campaign of George W. Bush said it was all about Bill Clinton "trying to write his own legacy."
The President told the Party faithful that now, "with hair grayer and wrinkles deeper...I want you to know my heart is filled with gratitude." He thanked the nation for giving him "the chance to live my dreams."
Democrats cheered wildly during the 41-minute speech, shouting "Thank you! Thank you!" to the man they enthusiastically support, despite the scandals of his second term in office.
Clinton touted what he sees as the successes of his two terms in office, repeatedly using phrases such as "We are more hopeful," "We are more secure," and "We are more free" because of tax cuts, education reforms, new jobs, welfare reforms, less crime, better health, a cleaner environment, and less discrimination.
"Al Gore and Joe Lieberman will keep our prosperity going by paying down the debt, investing in education and health care, and in family tax cuts that we can afford," he said.
But, he added, "In stark contrast, the GOP wants to spend every dime of our projected surplus and then some -- leaving nothing to extend the life of Medicare and Social Security, nothing for emergencies, nothing in case the projected surpluses don't come in."
George W. Bush, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, accused the Clinton administration of squandering its opportunities.
Without mentioning Bush by name Monday night, Clinton responded this way: "To those who say the progress of these last eight years was just some sort of accident, that we just kind of coasted along, let me be clear: America's success was not a matter of chance - it was a matter of choice."
And then, vintage Clinton: "My friends, 54 years ago this week I was born in a summer storm to a young widow in a small southern town. America gave me the chance to live my dreams, and I have tried as hard as I knew how to give you a better chance to live yours."
Bush campaign aide Ari Fleischer issued a statement, saying, "This speech was about Bill Clinton trying to write his own legacy, not about Al Gore's future. Instead of passing a baton to Al Gore, Bill Clinton used it to beat his own drum. The Vice President remains in Bill Clinton's shadow, unsuccessful in closing the leadership gap."
Clinton asked Democrats to help Al Gore become the next president of the United States. He said asking Al Gore to be his partner eight years ago was "one of the very best decisions of my life."
And while he praised his political partner, Clinton didn't say anything Americans haven't already heard about Gore: "thoughtful and hard working"... "strong leader"... "a profoundly good man, who loves his children more than life."
"My fellow Americans, the future of our country is in your hands. You must think hard, feel deeply, and choose wisely," Clinton said as he closed his speech.
"Remember, whenever you think about me, keep putting people first. Keep building those bridges. And don't stop thinking about tomorrow. I love you. Good night." He shook hands and lingered on the stage - joined by his wife and daughter -- clearly enjoying the applause.
Gore watched Clinton's speech from the campaign trail in Missouri. "I thought it was a great speech, and I really appreciated the generous and kind words that he had about me and about Tipper," he said.
Gore said the president made "a very strong case" for the record of the Clinton-Gore years. "It's a symbolic message that's more important than most of the words we'll be using," he said.
On Tuesday, President Clinton is supposed to symbolically "pass the torch" to Gore, at a joint rally in Monroe, Michigan, where Gore is now campaigning. The idea is to give Gore a boost as he heads to the convention on Wednesday.
In his Monday night speech, Clinton said "Al Gore understands the future and how sweeping changes can affect Americans' daily lives."
Hillary Rodham Clinton also praised Gore in her speech to the delegates: "I've watched him as Bill's trusted partner in the White House. Together, they made the hard decisions to renew our economy and our national spirit; to advance democracy and defend freedom around the world."
"And I can't wait to watch Al Gore take the oath of office on January 20th, 2001," she said.
Gore will formally accept the Democratic presidential nomination on Thursday. His running mate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, will arrive in Los Angeles Tuesday, when delegates will hear from four members of the Kennedy family -- Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, and their uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. See Full Text of President Clinton's Speech