Now that both conventions are completed and we have passed the magical date of Labor Day, the campaign for President begins in earnest with the next big dates coming in October with the debates. Before looking ahead, we should look at the recent past, specifically these conventions. One is left with the impression that when all is said and done despite the spin from both sides- pro and con- nothing has really changed.
For the Democrats, the big talk is the speech last night by Barack Obama. It was not the knock-out speech that our Orator-in-Chief is capable of provided the teleprompter is running. Absent that little technological marvel, Obama is quite a blubberer. For my money, Tammy Duckworth gave perhaps the best speech for the Democrats, not Obama, not Biden, and not anyone else. Despite the allegations thrown at Paul Ryan, he gave a speech that was red meat with a smile while focusing on leadership and a vision of the future. Quite frankly, I lost interest in Romney’s speech about three-quarters of the way through and failed to watch Obama’s speech at all. Although I did not watch Clinton’s speech, I read the transcript. If anything, the Democratic convention proves that Bill Clinton is still the heart and soul of the Democratic Party, not Obama. That simply underscores the Ryan speech. If Obama as President cannot be the “leader” of their own party, are we to accept him as leader of the free world?
Of course, both cities had their logistical problems although Tampa handled a passing hurricane much better than Charlotte handled the threat of afternoon thunderstorms. Because of Hurricane Isaac, some pundits questioned Florida as a site for future conventions ignorant of the fact that Tampa itself has not been hit by a hurricane in about 100 years. They also ignore the fact that moving a convention from the end of August to July does not guarantee the lack of hurricane activity. And likewise, North Carolina is not immune to hurricanes. Put another way, the weather was as big a story for both conventions as the some of the news coming out of the actual conventions.
Both party conventions had some interesting floor action. For the GOP, it was the appearance of Ron Paul on the convention floor and some rules wrangling. But that was about it for the Republicans. For the Democrats, however, there was an ugly floor scene when the party’s platform was changed allegedly by a two-thirds vote, although the amount of “NO’s” and boos heard suggested otherwise. Specifically, this was in response to the removal of that nasty word “God” from the platform and, for the first time, the removal of Jerusalem as the recognized capital of Israel. That latter issue led to some interesting spin from the likes of former DNC Chair and Presidential candidate ranter, Howard Dean, who explained that it was not specifically mentioned because it was an understood given. You know things are bad when Anderson Cooper of CNN stated that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was living in an alternate universe regarding her spin on the issue. Most importantly, we now find that Obama had signed off on the original platform.
From the list of speakers at the Democratic convention, it would appear that they intend to take advantage of the so-called gender gap between female acceptance of Obama versus Romney. In effect, their convention turned into, at times, a pro-choice rally by parading the likes of the leaders of NARAL, Planned Parenthood and Sandra Fluke before the cameras. Fluke stated that the GOP would have women dying in emergency rooms if they are denied contraceptive services in their health care plans. Of course, the Republicans and specifically Romney are apparently just out to kill lots of people by denying them certain health care options. But, this is simply keeping in line with the scare tactics of the Democrats in the hopes of garnering votes. Despite this “illustrious” group of female speakers, it is interesting to note that although they focused on reproductive rights, they said little about kitchen table economics. We did have Eva Longoria telling us that she did not need a tax cut. Of course, she could always direct her accountant not to take any of the tax breaks she is afforded so that she can then “pay her fair share.”
There is good news and bad news for the GOP. The bad news is that the Democrats, ironically, did a better job on the foreign policy front than the Republicans. Despite the speech by Kerry that, incidentally, had some factual errors (Tina Fey playing the role of Palin said she could see Alaska from her house; Palin never said it) that are actually rather old, stale jokes now, trotting out dinosaurs like John McCain to make the Republican case for foreign policy is looking backwards, not forwards. Thankfully, Condi Rice refocused the discussion although she started talking about domestic issues like education reform. But, unlike the Democratic rants, Rice’s speech was intelligent. The good news for the GOP is that foreign policy is not the major issue in this year’s campaign, unlike 2004. All Romney needs to do in the debates is look competent as most people will vote based on economic issues. Also, it is suggested that he adopt an international populist stance and talk tough about our relations with China as that would be a winning foreign policy argument.
Politico stated that both parties played to their base. Quite frankly, this writer did not see that too much from the Republicans. Interestingly, it was the GOP keynote speaker, Chris Christie, who stressed bipartisanship. We did not hear that phrase very much from the Democrats as speakers like Pelosi, Longoria and Warren played more to the class warfare tactics evident from the Democratic side. And one Democratic base constituency we did not hear too much from was Al Gore and the environmentalists. In fact, where is Al Gore? Prior to the GOP convention, news outlets were reporting that the Republican platform had removed exceptions for rape and incest for abortion. This they claimed was a play for the social conservative faction. However, the abortion language in the 2012 platform was actually largely unchanged from the 2008 platform. However, removing references to God and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is clearly a more glaring appeal to the Democratic base than anything the Republicans did.
It was also interesting to note that while Rahm Emanuel can sum up the Obama presidency as “Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,” we heard very little about TARP, the Obama stimulus and climate change. This is strange for a candidate who was going to cease the rise of the oceans four years ago and who saved the country from the brink of financial collapse. Of course, being accustomed to plagiarism, Biden then stole that line from Rahm Emanuel on the campaign trail. They also failed to mention that General Motors is hardly a healthy comoany and represents a $26 billion loss and counting to the taxpayers at this point and that most of their growth has been from sales in China. One guesses it can be called collective outsourcing of jobs at taxpayer expense which I argue is ten times worse than anything Bain Capital ever did.
As I mentioned earlier, I turned off Romney’s speech and never watched Obama’s speech. However, on some replays of the Obama speech, I did catch some of the yawns from the audience- and these are his people. Most news outlets said more people were talking about Clinton’s and Biden’s speech than they were about Obama’s speech. Things must be bad when a person recognized and adored by the media as a great speaker elicits yawns and guffaws from the very adoring media. It did not help Democrats either as a brand when some delegates talked about “eliminating” certain Republicans or comparing them to Nazis. Off course, the media saw no “code words” in these statements because, after all, it is only that racist Tea Party that uses code words.
The bottom line is that neither candidate, quite frankly, deserves a bump from their convention performance. But, there was greater expectations for Obama and he fell flat. Everyone was saying that Romney needed to deliver the speech of his life. He didn’t and it doesn’t matter. Because both candidates performed to a draw with maybe a slight advantage for the Republicans, the status of this race will remain unchanged. Either the debates or actions and statements on the campaign trail will have a greater impact. If anything, the Democratic convention showed that Democrats are hypocrites with no vision of the future other than the status quo. Their ideas are stale and rooted in the past era of the New Deal and the Great Society. Republican ideals and ideas are more forward looking that keep the current social safety nets solvent until real, sustainable fundamental reforms can be enacted.
In the final analysis, the Democratic convention can best be met with a shrug of the shoulders and a “ho-hum” attitude. In effect, they wasted three days of valuable air time on television.