Where Obama Went Wrong

Most of the speakers at last week's Democratic National Convention whipped up the partisan crowd into a frenzy. Here's why I think the main event — President Obama's nomination acceptance speech — fell flat.

The crowd was ready. The delivery, as always, was masterful. But in the end, President Obama's nomination acceptance speech spoke more for what it wasn't, in fact, than what it was.

Republican nominee Mitt Romney has made a habit of criticizing Obama's habit of criticizing America on foreign shores. Many political observers — including the Tampa Bay Times' respected PolitiCheck columnists — found Romney's claims grossly distorted. Naturally, conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation disagree.

Nevertheless, for someone so willing to acknowledge prior administrative policy failures, Obama found little fault with himself or his way of doing business over the past nearly-four years — with the exception of not doing a better job selling his narrative to the American people.

Perhaps America has become accustomed to his extraordinary prowess on the stump. To me, his speech sounded like leftover meatloaf — satisfying when fresh out of the oven yesterday, but warmed over grease today.

Obama made his biggest mistake of the campaign by using the convention to energize his base. He didn't need to energize the crowd — they were already pumped from Joe Biden's terrific speech, which visibly moved Michelle Obama, and the fascinating entry of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro into the national consciousness.

What he needed to do was sway Independent voters. And I don't think he got the job done.

Wouldn't it have been so much more refreshing to hear him acknowledge that America is not in a better place than it was when he was first elected? Unemployment is 8.1 percent. Food and gas prices are the highest they've ever been. Housing is in the toilet. The Middle East and Europe threaten our welfare, as does China. 

(And — by the way — those 4.5 million jobs? Do yourself a favor and fact check that number. It's just a big, fat quarter-truth.)

Perhaps it would have been wiser for him to take a different tack in his nomination speech than when he was first elected. Obama's failure to cultivate relationships inside Congress — highlighted by his hiring of assertive-is-putting-it-mildly Rahm Emanuel and his arrogant hey-we-won-the-election-so-back-off style of dealmaking — made it difficult for him to get anything done, even when the Democrats controlled Congress.

Here's what's now the worst-kept secret in town: I voted for Obama in 2008. Although I liked and respected McCain (I still do), I couldn't tolerate his choice of Sarah Palin for VP. At the time I thought: 'This is your first decision under pressure, and she's the best you can do?' Plus, it smacked of pandering, which I find insulting.

But I digress.

I voted for Obama because I desperately wanted to see his vision of America come true. A more tolerant, less aggressive US of A. But things are worse now than they've ever been, and when I think that 11 years ago our Congressmen and women stood on the steps of the Capitol and sang God Bless America impromptu, I know that Obama is not the man to bridge this nation's deep ideological divide.

And this is his deepest failure. The varnish on this cool customer and undeniably brilliant community organizer who made hope and change sound so good is faded and scratched. Obama's inability to admit that his administration has made any mistakes, and the stubborn insistence that we are better off now than we were four years ago, demeans the intelligence of the man on the street.

I guess what I'm saying is, if the Democrats have to spend three days convincing America that Americans are better off, then we probably aren't.

Milker September 12, 2012 at 06:19 PM
An insult to leftover Meatloaf.
Susanne Krivit September 12, 2012 at 10:40 PM
What short memories we have. I don’t need anyone to convince me I am better off today then I was four years ago. Four years ago the stock market was crashing. Being someone who has all their retirement money invested, I was watching my future, the future I have spent the last 40 years building, literally disappearing by the day. I was watching what I thought was the end of the American automotive industry and was expecting not only that GM and Chrysler were about to go under, but all companies that support those companies. Four years ago we were using the d word. I recall the day the Dow closed at 6,500, I recall the day GE was trading at 7 ( I think it is 21 these days). I recall the months we lost 800,000 jobs. Are we better off today? You bet we are.
Phil Strickland September 13, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Dear Ms. Krivit: One can only hope you'll wake up and smell the, ummm, well it sure ain't meatloaf though the consistency is somewhat the same.
Admiral Obvious September 14, 2012 at 01:32 AM
Glad your better off, gas is $4.30 a gallon,unemployment stinks,meats and vegetables are at an all time high, banks paying under 1% on savings accounts. My pay is lower than 4 years ago yet cost of living has shot up. Your probably making a fortune selling the Obama koolaid your drinking. Your insanely delusional if you think the majority of americans are better off. Redding residents live in a different world and reality.
Sarah P. September 14, 2012 at 03:37 AM
AO - you should really learn the difference between "your", and "you're", it's not that difficult! Might help getting a job!
Kent September 15, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Dear Mr. Strickland, maybe you and Admiral Obvious (apt name) were expecting miracles from a new president within four years, but then whose fault it that? I agree that despite the state of the economy right now, we're in far better shape as a nation than we were four years ago, although I strongly empathize with the long-term unemployed (been there), and ONLY them. This caterwauling about the cost of brussel sprouts and gasoline is unseemly to say the least, and to put this in a different perspective, have you considered what those commodities might cost if the US were to go to war with Iran?
Kent September 15, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Mortimer, I'm as worried as you about our collective economic future, but I haven't heard anything - anything - that I deem to be a constructive alternate course of action being offered by the opposing political party, whose contribution to the discussion would appear to be no other than to simply 'oppose'. This president was tasked with an array of problems to manage unlike any other in memory (and I'm going back to Eisenhower), and it's my opinion that his administration has proposed the most credible solutions for restoring our nation's solvancy thusfar. Personally, I think that a time of robust employment in the US is still years away, but I do feel that the near panic that many of us felt four years ago has ebbed, even as we adjust to an uncertain economic reality that none of us had anticipated.


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