CHARLOTTE, N.C.—President Obama offered a sober assessment of America's economic plight Thursday night, but argued passionately that he still has faith in the country's ability to solve its problems and argued that his prescriptions would result in more growth, more jobs, and more fairness than what he called the wrong-headed ideas of Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
"I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy," Obama told the Democratic National Convention in accepting his party's nomination for a second term. "I never have. You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear. You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one. And by the way—those of us who carry on his party's legacy should remember that not every problem can be remedied with another government program or dictate from Washington."
Then he pivoted to a more optimistic tone. "But know this, America," he said. "Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future."
His at times cautious approach will open him up to criticism from Romney and the Republicans that he is too downbeat and doesn't any immediate solutions to lift America out of the doldrums and bring back prosperity and security.
But after a subdued beginning, Obama's speech built to a crescendo that celebrated govenment's role in helping Americans improve their lives and achieve their goals. Referring to Americans' history of assisting nations around the world, Obama said, "It's time to do some nation-buliding right here at home." He also got in a few digs against his opponent, especially in the area of foreign policy.
Bowing to those, including many Democrats, who have urged him to offer a detailed plan of action rather than abstract ideas, Obama listed a series of goals that he asked the country to rally around that would keep government squarely at the center of what he described as a national renaissance in manufacturing, energy, education, national security, and reducing the massive federal deficit. But in keeping with his relatively austere tone, he didn't promise that progress would be just around the corner. And many of his proposals lacked specificity.
Obama's speech ended a three-day convention in which Democrats demonstrated their unity behind the president and their willingness to battle with Romney and the Republicans over every vote. Romney and the GOP were savaged by speaker after speaker as out of touch, beholden to the rich and powerful, and committed to economic policies that have failed in the past, notably under George W. Bush, Obama's predecessor. The convention featured some uplifting moments, such as the speeches by First Lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton, who seemed more inspirational than Obama. The convention also had its share of embarrassing moments, such as the failure of the party plaform to include mention of God or to repeat the party's past backing of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. When Obama learned of these omissions, he ordered the platform changed, the president's aides said.
In discussing he economy, which is the voters' top concern, Obama set an objective of creating a million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016; doubling exports by the end of 2014; cutting net imports by half by 2020; cutting the growth of college tuition by half over the next decade; recruiting 100,000 math and science teachers over the next 10 years; and reducing the deficit by more than $4 trillion over the next decade.
A spokesman for the Republican National Commttee said Obama's ideas were "scaled down, recycled promises for a second term that he has failed to deliver on in his first term."
In a separate address, Vice President Joe Biden praised Obama's resolve and political courage in rescuing the American auto industry with a temporary infusion of federal money and in ordering the risky mission that led to the death of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. Biden said Obama "has courage in his soul, compassion in his heart, and steel in his spine. And because of all the actions he took, because of the calls he made, and because of the grit and determination of American workers, and the unparalleled bravery of our special forces, we can now proudly say Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."