While Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama and Vice President Biden, along with countless other speakers, did a stellar job defending and explaining the past four years, it was ultimately up to the president himself to present a vision for a second term last night in his acceptance speech. On this front, his effort was satisfactory, not inspired. Obama has a nearly impossible challenge: to convince the American people that even though we are still in the midst of an economic slump, we are slowing working our way out of it and with another term in office, he can help us make even more progress.
Obama’s speech last night did not include any new, specific, policy proposals to combat the seemingly entrenched problem of unemployment. He did, however, promise that he would not give in on tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class. Although he mentioned it only in passing, he reiterated his desire for a “grand bargain” in the spirit of the Simpson-Bowles commission, which calls for major reform of taxes and entitlements at the same time. In short, much of his speech was a reiteration of what his agenda has been for the last 4 years. He framed it optimistically and encouraged Americans to stick with him for another round.
Although he did not have any new policies to offer, Obama and his party made a convincing case this week that the GOP offered nothing but tax cuts. They (primarily via Bill Clinton) strongly defended the foundation for recovery that has been built under Obama’s watch.
Mitt Romney was rightly excoriated last week for failing to even mention the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the veterans who have fought in them. The GOP is typically thought of as more patriotic and militaristic than the usually more dovish Democratic Party. There was something refreshingly dissonant about the focus at the DNC on veterans, the war efforts and the successful elimination of Osama Bin Laden.
While Obama’s biggest challenge has and will continue to be a weak economic recovery, his party and convention did a yeoman’s job of reminding America of what an effective commander-in-chief he has been.
In short, the DNC was largely a success. It rallied the base, reached out to undecideds, highlighted the achievements of Obama against unlikely odds, and made a reasonable, if not overwhelming, case for another 4 years. On these factors alone, Obama should receive a bump in the polls over the next couple of days.
However, before the convention planners had even begun to clean up, a new and depressing jobs report was released, showing that only 96,000 jobs were created in August. Although the Democrats won the convention battle handily, in November it may not matter a bit.
The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.
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