The most salient characteristic of the Obama administration's abject failure to put the American economy back to work has been its deafening silence on the issue in his campaign.
President Obama doesn't talk about the economy's painful weaknesses. Democrats in Congress are all but silent on the issue, as if it doesn't exist. His campaign ads ignore it altogether as if everything's fine, asking voters to turn their attention to lesser issues -- ones that don't make the top 10 list of major concerns in voter surveys.
Across the Potomac River in swing state Virginia, almost all of the Obama attack ads against Republican rival Mitt Romney are about abortion and contraception, hoping they will be able to woo enough women to vote for Mr. Obama based on a single issue to put the state into his electoral column.
We're in an election year when the president's handling of the economy is the No. 1 complaint. High unemployment and the lack of good-paying jobs is No. 2, and unfathomable budget deficits and a nearly $16 trillion debt are Nos. 3 and 4. Mr. Obama believes he can win a second term on abortion, Mr. Romney's tax returns and bashing his successful career as a venture capital investor. Apparently, he thinks the American people are fools who will fall for the old carnival shell game.
In "The Emperor's New Clothes," Hans Christian Andersen tells the tale of two tailors who weave a suit of clothes that is supposedly invisible to anyone who is either stupid or incompetent. When the emperor rides by, no one in the crowd dares to say anything, until a child cries out, "He isn't wearing anything at all."
Like the naked emperor, Mr. Obama appears oblivious to the dismal state of the economy. Or he thinks not enough of his voters will care that the economy is now in a sharp decline in the fourth year of his presidency if he can keep them distracted by other issues. He is also counting on the base of his party and its leadership not to utter a word about the 23 million Americans who can't find good-paying, full-time jobs. So far, the Obama administration has done a good job of gagging Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill. They're counting on the national news media to focus their fire power on the Romney-Ryan ticket, while burying the economic news stories -- as the networks have been doing for the past four years. They did it again Wednesday by ignoring the Commerce Department's report that the economy was barely growing at 1.7 percent and, economists say, will remain below 2 percent for the rest of this year.
It was left to vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan to say the obvious Wednesday night at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., "I have never seen opponents so silent about their record." Mr. Obama's cronies are silent because they know the economy during his time in office has not really recovered and is to a large degree much worse than it was in 2009 when he was sworn in. They are silent, too, because they have nothing to say about how to strengthen the economy, create jobs, raise middle-class incomes, expand overseas export markets, boost energy supplies to reduce gas prices and save an unsustainable Medicare program from insolvency.
Their last shot at trying to jump-start the economy was Mr. Obama's $800 billion-plus spending stimulus plan in 2009 that was an abysmal, wasteful failure. He can point to nothing he has done since then that has worked.
"They've run out of ideas," Mr. Ryan said in his electrifying acceptance speech. "Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left. With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money -- and he's pretty experienced at that."
Mr. Ryan's speech crowned a lineup of inspiring speeches delivered at the convention Wednesday. Especially welcome was the determination by the party's younger rising stars to aggressively rebut the fallacious, flimflam hucksterism peddled by Mr. Obama. One excerpt from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's address should be broadcast in a 30-second ad for the duration of the campaign. "Mr. President, you say the rich must pay their fair share. But when you seek to punish the rich, the jobs that are lost are those of the poor and middle class," Mr. Paul said. He's boiled down a complicated economic reality to a sound bite. Mr. Obama knows that the top 25 percent of income earners pay 87.3 percent of all federal income taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But he's betting most Americans don't know that or don't believe it. Meanwhile, the truth is that over the past four years, the middle class has been shrinking and has born the brunt of the severe unemployment levels under Mr. Obama's failed economic policies.
The Republican National Convention has put an end to the four-year honeymoon the president has had with most of the national news media. A newly energized GOP campaign has begun punching back with some effective firepower.
A major target was Mr. Obama's unending excuses: He "is the first president to create more excuses than jobs. In his view, it's [George W. Bush's] fault. It's the bank's fault. It's Europe's fault. It's Congress's fault," said former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "Mr. President, if you want to find fault, I suggest you look in the mirror."
Besides the economy, no Obama statement took more of pounding from the convention podium than his "you didn't built that" claim, which placed the government at the center of everything Americans have accomplished in their lives. Mr. Ryan, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and others struck down that preposterous claim with a vengeance in a counter-attack that revives a deeply held political belief in the American electorate.
Americans still believe that persistence, hard work and the opportunity to compete in the open marketplace in a free-enterprise society is the surest path to success. They just want the government to get out of their way.
That's the economic revival Republicans were selling in Tampa this week. Next week, however, Mr. Obama and the Democrats will meet in North Carolina -- where the jobless rate is 9.7 percent -- peddling more government.
Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and former chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.
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