Obama 'ready to be president,' Bill Clinton tells convention

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton praised Barack Obama during his highly-anticipated appearance at the Democratic convention in Denver on Wednesday night, saying his wife's former rival is "ready to lead America."

Former U.S. president gets wild welcome from Democratic delegates

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton gestures as he addresses the Democratic National Convention in Denver on Wednesday night. ((Stephan Savoia/Associated Press))

Former U.S. president Bill Clinton praised Barack Obama during his highly anticipated appearance at the Democratic convention in Denver on Wednesday night, saying his wife's former rival is "ready to lead America."

The former president was treated to the longest, most enthusiastic reception accorded any speaker so far when he took the stage at the convention after Obama made history by becoming the first African-American nominee of a major party in U.S. history.

Delegates waving thousands of American flags cheered wildly and chanted for several minutes as Clinton repeated "thank you, thank you very much" and pleaded in vain for them to sit down and let him speak.

"Tonight I am here, first, to support Barack Obama," he began, bringing the cheering crowd to its feet once again.

"Clearly, the job of the next president is to rebuild the American dream and to restore American leadership in the world, and here's what I have to say about that," he said.

"Everything I learned in my eight years as president, and in the work I have done since in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job.

"Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States."

'In the end, my candidate didn't win'

Clinton acknowledged the hard-fought — and often acrimonious — contest between his wife, Hillary, and Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, saying "that campaign generated so much heat, it increased global warming."

"In the end, my candidate didn't win," he said. "But I'm really proud of the campaign she ran.

"I am proud that she never quit on the people she stood up for, on the changes she pushed for, on the future she wanted for all of our children."

Clinton urged his wife's supporters to give their backing to Obama and turn out and vote for him in November.

Noting that Hillary Clinton had told the convention Tuesday night that she would do everything she can to elect Obama, Clinton said: "That makes two of us."

McCain 'embraces extreme philosophy'

In a speech that lasted a little over 20 minutes, Clinton unleashed a detailed attack on President George W. Bush, a Republican, and his policies, which Clinton said have left the American dream under siege at home and weakened U.S. leadership in the world.

Clinton called presumptive Republican nominee John McCain "a good man who has served our country heroically," but quickly added that McCain "still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years" and warned nothing would change if he is elected.

The former president devoted a good portion of his speech to praising Obama and assuring delegates that the one-term senator is ready for the job.

"Join Hillary and Chelsea and me in making Barack Obama the next president of the United States," he said in closing.

Biden praises Obama, attacks Bush, McCain

Clinton was followed by the evening's keynote speaker, Joe Biden, the party's vice-presidential nominee.

Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden acknowledges the crowd before speaking at the U.S. Democratic National Convention in Denver on Wednesday night. ((Ron Edmonds/Associated Press))

"Let me say this as simply as I can. Yes, yes, I accept your nomination to run and serve with Barack Obama, the next president of the United States of America," the senator from Delaware said.

Biden began his speech on a folksy and personal note, recounting his childhood in a family that fell upon hard times and a father who always told him "when you get knocked down, get up."

As cameras focused on his mother in the audience, he recalled her support for him as a stuttering child and later when his wife and infant daughter were killed in a car accident.

Biden devoted most of his 21-minute speech to attacking Bush and McCain and praising Obama.

"John McCain is my friend. We've travelled the world together," he said. "But I profoundly disagree with the direction John wants to take this country, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Amtrack to veterans."

He went on to attack McCain's voting record in the Senate, saying he'd sided with Bush 95 per cent of the time on things like corporate tax breaks, while opposing renewable energy initiatives and the minimum wage.

Biden, who's the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, drew on his foreign policy expertise to criticize Bush's approach.

"I've been on the ground in Georgia, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms, this administration's policy has been an abysmal failure," he said. "American cannot afford four more years of this failure.

"These are extraordinary times," Biden said. "I am ready. Barack is ready. This is his time. This is our time. This is America's time."

As Biden wound up his speech, Obama made an unscheduled "surprise" appearance on stage before jubilant delegates.

The crowd thundered its approval for the team and Obama and Biden basked in the cheers.