They say a candidate campaigns with poetry but, if elected, governs with prose. Last night’s speech by Barack Obama, despite some soaring moments, reflected the gravitas he has developed in nearly four years in office. The idea that our path “may be harder, but it leads to a better place” is a sober reminder that, while his administration has made significant accomplishments and the country itself is better off than it was four years ago, we are still a long slog from widespread prosperity. And, if you didn’t know that last night, you certainly did this morning when the U.S. Labor Department’s jobs report came out.
Obama is a stronger leader today than he was four years ago. Who would have imagined that a Democratic President, typically criticized as weak on defense – would have had the foreign policy and national security successes that he has achieved, as ably outlined for Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry? By contrast, what Mitt Romney offers is a naive return to Cold War attitudes. As speakers have been quick to remind us, Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive.”
The President’s saving the auto industry and its supporting industries from obliteration is another sharp contrast with Romney, who had argued for letting American car manufacturers go bankrupt when no private sector financiers were willing to step in. Obama’s accomplishment was mentioned often during the convention as a reminder to voters in swing states like Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
Despite listing the programs he is for and against, the President didn’t give much in the way of new details or, for that matter, any reassurance that, if re-elected, he would be able to break the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington for nearly four years. His citing the opportunities implied by the Simpson-Bowles approach to the budget and deficit was disingenuous inasmuch as he had walked away from his own commission’s recommendations (just as commission member Paul Ryan had rejected it.)
So, after two weeks of convention speeches, voters may well end up voting not for particular programs but for one or the other view of government – the Democrats’ emphasizing citizenship, community, extending helping hands, levelling playing fields; and the Republicans emphasizing individualism, responsibility for oneself, small government, lower taxes. As the Globe puts it, “a clear clash of values and visions.”
In the final analysis, the conventions are week-long advertorials and are already becoming history. The debates will be far more determinative, and I’m counting the days until the first one, on October 3.
I welcome your comments in the section below.