Bill Clinton is famous for ad-libbing hefty chunks of his speeches, and, sure enough, his address to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Tuesday night contained large portions of off-prompter roaming from the former president.
Most of Clinton's sauntering away from the prepared text was in service of his extended parable about Hillary Clinton's suitability for the Oval Office. Towards the end of his speech, however, he went on a riff about an especially charged issue—race and policing—and showed once again why he has been a particularly polarizing figure when it comes to these matters.
"If you're a young African American disillusioned and afraid, we saw in Dallas how great our police officers can be," he told the crowd. "Help us build a future where nobody's afraid to walk outside, including the people that wear blue to protect our future."
Coming on a night when the DNC had honored the so-called "Mothers of the Movement," many of whom had seen their sons and daughters killed by police, Clinton's words felt especially jarring. In his telling, it was the job of black people to do the work of making streets safer for the police who keep killing them, not the other way around.
MTV's Jamil Smith summed up the problem with the premise at the heart of Clinton's speech.
It shouldn't have been too surprising that Clinton had an off moment when it came to this topic. He has been running into trouble when it comes to criminal justice all through the 2016 campaign. His crime and welfare policies in the 1990s have become a virtual badge of shame. His fights with Black Lives Matter protesters caused major headaches for his wife's campaign.
Clinton also managed to make an off-the-cuff comment about Muslims that drew criticism.
"If you're a Muslim and you love America and freedom and you hate terror, stay here and help us win and make a future together," he said. "We want you."
It was unclear which American Muslims Clinton thought needed convincing that they should remain in the country, or why he didn't tell them that they should stay because they were entitled to the same rights and protections as anyone else living in the U.S.
Some Muslims were displeased.
Clinton may often seem like a master at improvisation. These were two instances where he might have done better to stick to the script.