The conventions are finally over. This week, Congress is back in session. One would hope that that would mean it’s policy time, not politics time in Washington. Unfortunately, that hope is just as vain as President Obama’s hope to lower the seas. The politicking will only intensify as we get closer to Election Day.
Neither convention was a huge success. The Republican National Convention was, like its presidential candidate, perfectly competent but uninspiring.
But at least the Republicans had competence. The Democrats had procedural chaos, inclement weather, security issues and some notably embarrassing speeches, particularly that of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm.
First the Democrats took God out of the platform. Then they tried to put him back in. Half of the arena booed God three times. They rejected an offer to pray by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York, but let him only when it became a controversy. Democrats tried in 2004 and 2008 to appear religious because of George W. Bush’s appeal among the supposedly lock-step evangelical values voters. The strategy failed in 2004, but somehow worked in 2008. They’re not even trying it in 2012.
The RNC stage was an important opportunity for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to introduce himself directly to the average voter, unmediated by reporters. His was mostly a positive message, and he generally avoided negative attacks on the president. It was a wise strategy. We’ve seen this president for four years, and we know who he is. Mr. Romney, on the other hand, is still known primarily from Democratic attacks in the media and in advertisements. Mr. Romney seized the moment and looked like a president giving a State of the Union address, entering the arena shaking hands up the aisle.
In contrast, what was there for Mr. Obama to say? Have we not heard it all already? He has done nothing but talk for four years as president, after getting elected for doing nothing but talk for four years as a senator. Therefore, of necessity, Mr. Obama had to recycle some material. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer called it “a lot of stuff we’ve heard before.” NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie spoke of “an excitement gap.” Even Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum acknowledged that Mr. Obama “phoned it in.” When the press is skeptical of Mr. Obama, then you know he’s in trouble.
The speech is a microcosm of Mr. Obama’s bigger problems: He already has said everything that he can say. He has tried every strategy available to him; he has promised to cut the deficit in half; he has promised all sorts of new entitlements and payouts. Similarly, he has tried everything that he could try: He has tried Keynesian stimulus; he has tried health care reform; he has tried Wall Street reform. He has shot all his arrows. In his defense, what was he supposed to say?
Even if, hypothetically, he made the speech of his life — a Gettysburg Address, for example — would that change anything? There are fewer Americans working than when Mr. Obama was inaugurated, and fewer than when the $800 billion Keynesian experiment was passed. Not even Bill Clinton could talk his way out of that one.
We also saw at the Democratic National Convention, in marked contrast to “hope and change,” Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts repeating three times that “the game is rigged” against the working man. If so, then why are we bothering to listen to you? Let’s all just go home. Also, if this is so, are the Democratic president and Senate to blame? Why should we elect you to the Senate if your party already controls it and is doing, even in your estimation, a bad job? Mrs. Warren’s defeatism has never been popular in American politics; we are, rightly or wrongly, an optimistic people.
As if a lousy convention were not enough, the jobs numbers came out Friday. They were bad, but certainly could have been worse. Unemployment fell by two-tenths of a percent, from 8.3 percent to 8.1 percent, as 96,000 net jobs were created, and — much more important — 368,000 dropped out of the workforce altogether. Keep in mind that we need to create at least 125,000 jobs just to keep pace with population growth. I need a recovery from this recovery. Compare this with Ronald Reagan’s recovery, when the workforce actually grew.
Despite the dispiriting news that the workforce had shrunk (again), the hugely symbolic number of 8.3 percent dropped. If it ever drops below 8 percent before the election, even if it’s because of people leaving the workforce, the Obama administration will run with it. It has two more chances: The October jobs report comes out the Friday before the election.
• Armstrong Williams, author of the 2010 book “Reawakening Virtues,” is on Sirius Power 128 from 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.
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