After all of it; the chanting, the speeches from Michelle, Bill Clinton, Kerry and Biden. After the highlight reel narrated by Michael Douglas that recounted the struggles and triumphs of one of the most contentious presidencies in American history, Barack Obama walked onto the stage, hugged his wife and accepted the waves of applause from the faithful at the DNC.
He politely quieted the crowds chant of ‘four more years,’ possibly because his running mate’s speech ran longer than expected. He thanked his wife, and accepted the nomination. He began by recalling his speech to the DNC in 2004. He spoke of hope, and how that hope has been tested over eight years since. He acknowledged the manic twists and turns the political process sometimes takes:
I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising. If you’re sick of hearing me approve this message, believe me – so am I.
Obama spoke with confidence about the differences between Romney and himself, calling this election, “the clearest choice of any time in a generation.” And about what the choice America makes really means:
Over the next few years, big decisions will be made in Washington, on jobs and the economy; taxes and deficits; energy and education; war and peace – decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives and our children’s lives for decades to come.
It will be a choice between two different paths for America.
A choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.
He gently mocked the Republican National Convention, and the conservative mantra for prosperity:
Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another.
Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!
Another jab, subtle, but deftly aimed and received with laughter, was a reminder of Romney’s goodwill trip this summer, and it’s chilly global reception:
So now we face a choice. My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly.
After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.
Obama touched on all of the key points that have been the theme of this convention; GM is alive, and Bin Laden is dead. The importance of healthcare and education and women and civil rights for all, plus a promise to remove the troops from Afghanistan in 2014. And he returned to a subject that seems to have been forgotten by Republicans, jobs:
After a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years. And now you have a choice: we can give more tax breaks to corporations that ship jobs overseas, or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs here, in the United States of America. We can help big factories and small businesses double their exports, and if we choose this path, we can create a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years. You can make that happen. You can choose that future.
He detailed past efforts at compromise with conservatives, and his willingness to continue those efforts. But he made it clear that tax reform is back on the table, and that he would make it a priority:
I want to reform the tax code so that it’s simple, fair, and asks the wealthiest households to pay higher taxes on incomes over $250,000 – the same rate we had when Bill Clinton was president; the same rate we had when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest surplus in history, and a lot of millionaires to boot.
Now, I’m still eager to reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. But when Governor Romney and his allies in Congress tell us we can somehow lower our deficit by spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy – well, you do the math. I refuse to go along with that. And as long as I’m President, I never will.
The notion that Obama returned to over and over, is that regular Americans need to take charge of the democratic process again, regardless of the will of lobbyists and monied interests. He was a confident leader, rallying the troops, asking them to believe. Appealing to American citizens to accept the responsibilities of citizenship, again. At the end he shouted, raising his voice above the cheering crowd:
America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up. We draw strength from our victories, and we learn from our mistakes, but we keep our eyes fixed on that distant horizon, knowing that Providence is with us, and that we are surely blessed to be citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
He spoke for about 38 minutes. Every word will be held up and examined, in and out of context. People (like me) who make their living dissecting the words and actions of politicians, will process this speech towards their own ends. But the irrefutable truth is obvious to anyone who watched both conventions; Barack Obama appears to be a man engaged in leading a nation, whereas Mitt Romney appears to be a man engaged in doing little else but trying to defeat that effort.