CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There is nothing sadder than a politician without his balloons. It’s like a cowboy, hair slicked down, without a hat. It’s especially sad when the cowboy was all hat and no cattle to begin with.
That was President Obama on stage Thursday night accepting his party’s nomination for re-election. He was tiny, like a stick figure with graying hair. He looked tired, not very hopeful. What a letdown it was from four years ago.
In Denver, lines of hungry people snaked for miles around Mile High Stadium; 80,000 piled in. It was like a rock concert or an NFL game. People left in tears.
For this week’s event, he gave up his Greek columns. He planned, however, to once again deliver his nomination acceptance speech in a stadium under his lucky stars. But that got scrubbed at the last minute, and it was moved indoors to a much smaller venue.
The campaign said they took it indoors over concerns about lightning strikes — the very symbol of bad luck. Others speculated they moved it inside because the campaign realized they could not fill the much larger stadium.
So, when they moved it inside, there was no time to fill the thousands of balloons necessary for the usual balloon drop inside the arena. Instead, Obama accepted his re-nomination to all the spunk and enthusiasm of a few confetti cannons spitting out not nearly enough ribbons of red, white and blue to make up for the absence of balloons.
Then the upbeat country song blaring from overhead skipped, stopped and had to be started over again. It all felt broken.
Obama’s speech was little more than cold leftovers from four years ago. Cold leftovers that have been rewarmed so many times that they are nearly inedible, unrecognizable anymore.
After three days of hearing how Obamacare and the stimulus program are the reasons to re-elect Obama, he managed not to mention either one of them in his speech. Not once.
He also did not mention his once-fierce rival Hillary Clinton, though he could not avoid ad-libbing a line about Bill Clinton.
Obama 2008 hung so heavy in the room that Obama 2012 could not avoid mentioning that cool, hip, promising fellow that so many of us fell for.
“So you see, the election four years ago wasn’t about me,” Obama 2012 said. “It was about you. My fellow citizens, you were the change.”
So, let’s get this straight: You build a small business from scratch, and you didn’t build that. But Obama blows through $5.4 trillion of your money in four years with nothing to show for it, and you do own that?
A Republican friend of mine who got swept up in the Obamamania four years ago emailed me after the speech. “You were the change you were disappointed by!” he wrote, darkly.
Indeed, so much hope under the bridge and lost forever.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.