As an occasionally myopic political junkie, my extended family is always a wake-up call to me. It apparently never occurs to them—and to many Americans for that matter—to interrupt their normal routine of having a cup of tea and finishing that good book they were reading in order to watch the political conventions. The pageantry of the conventions, however, and their role as the starting gun for the final stretch of a presidential race is de riguer for most of us who care about party or policy. Here's what you missed if you found a good book preferable:
First a few of the oddities: Vice President Joe Biden's name was virtually absent from the evening. Party leaders chose to use old video footage of Ted Kennedy to attack Mitt Romney (I guess that was the Democrat equivalent of the Reagan footage that spoke about American exceptionalism). Finally and most shockingly, they featured a video of President Carter, a man who lost the presidency over his dismal record of economic leadership. Yes, the man that brought us four-hour-long lines to fill up our cars and exorbitant gas prices, prime interest rates in the double digits, and crushing inflation was one of the opening acts for the Democrat convention. Truly a "what were they thinking?" moment.
The kick-off line-up at the Democrat convention started off weak and got stronger. To many watching, that difference appeared primarily to be the result of which speakers had more experience in reading a teleprompter (a phenomenon also observed at the Republican convention). Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, never brought her speech to the obligatory, crescendo finish. Rather, she just...stopped talking.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, or his speechwriters, certainly paid attention to the criticism leveled at Republican keynote speaker, Gov. Chris Christie, and largely spent his time warming up the crowd and attacking Mitt Romney. Like others, he clearly relaxed into the venue as the speech developed and hit his rhythm with the audience in a series of "Mitt Romney says no" choruses that ended in the best crowd-pleaser of the evening, a reference to the difference in Romney's approach to healthcare at a state level versus the federal level.
Of course, the real keynote on the first night of a convention is the speech by one who knows the candidate the best: his (may it one day be "her") spouse. Like Ann Romney, Michelle Obama did her job extremely well. America will be proud to have either serve the post of first lady.
But this is not a popularity contest. Both families have lived the American dream and both claim to want to make that dream a reality for every citizen. The paths they propose to reach that goal, however, are starkly different and, therefore, have disparate chances of success.
And, in this case, the results of President Obama's path are already with us. In an excellent opening memo last night, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly showed a chart (2:33 in) that was devastating for those who like the president, but can't rationalize the risk voting for someone who just can't deliver results in challenging economic times:
More than 300,000 fewer Americans are working than when Obama took office—that is the worst job record of any president going back through Truman.
About half the kids graduating from college are unemployed or underemployed (of the three we have graduated over the past four years, one is living in our basement right now). Debt has sky-rocketed, inconveniently crossing the $16 trillion water mark on the opening day of the Democrat convention. Deficits are routinely in the trillion dollar arena and Obama's solution, distilled to the basics, is to do more of the same policies that have given us the slowest recovery in our nation's history.
This is the reason why, no matter how much voters like the Obamas as a family (and loved Michelle Obama's dress), they will have to put their faith in the future into the hands of Mitt Romney. It's time to give those who have created jobs in the private sector a chance to do it again for this great country. It's time to build a better future. As for President Obama, Clint Eastwood hit this note perfectly last week when he said, “When somebody does not do the job, we gotta let them go.”