Saturday, September 08, 2012

Race for the White House

59 Days Until Election Day

I knew that I was in for an aggravating and frustrating week of going about life in the midst of the Democrat National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and I was not surprised. In fact, I hated almost everything about it, as I am sure Democrats hated everything about the GOP Convention the week before. They were fortunate enough though to have the final convention, which I know from experience, makes things a lot easier for partisans. With the exception of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the closing benediction by Cardinal Dolan of New York, I would find it hard to say that I approved of anything that went down in Charlotte, but that's politics. Following a Democrat convention, in a week where the Republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan received virtually no attention was tough enough and the fact that the mainstream media is so overwhelmingly in the tank for the Obama campaign and for liberalism in general, whether they are conscious of it or not, make someone like me feel a bit like an alien from another planet. Even the so-called conservative pundits, who go to these conventions and sit in the arena among the delegates and their liberal colleagues seem to come down with a case of Stockholm Syndrome.

The media said the Democrats were more jazzed and energized than Republicans in the convention setting because the media is more jazzed and energized by Democrat rhetoric, etc. Yes though, Democrat delegates (which number far more than Republicans allocate) are more racially diverse, younger, and are better dancers. So what? They may be better "partiers" but the business types who go to GOP conventions are better builders, which of course is more important. 

In discussing the convention, I cannot even pretend to be non-partisan. I try to be honest about my assessments in regards to political realities, but my personal views are not going to be held back. The only way I can think of doing a rundown of everything that has happened in politics is to just list a whole bunch of bullet points by day. Generally speaking though, it was clear that the Democrat Convention was primarily about two things, which they consider to be the sole rationales for reelecting Obama. They are the bailout of General Motors and the killing of Osama bin Laden. In 2004, any mention of 9/11/01 was considered an unworthy political ploy designed to divide the country and reelect Republicans, but the Democrats sure learned how to ratchet up the jingoistic flag-waving thing this week, as the corpse of bin Laden was stepped on over and over again. I guess that's their prerogative to brag though. Yes, General Motors is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead, but the fact is that if anybody else (with the possible exception of Ron Paul) had been elected President in 2008, General Motors would still be alive and Osama bin Laden would also be dead. Credit was due and has been given by all to Obama for giving the final order in the bin Laden raid. He though, did not spend years building the intelligence infrastructure to find him, and he did not risk his life the way the Navy Seals team did, and with the exact same intelligence, any American President would have done exactly the same thing. They likely would not have shamelessly exploited it though as the theme of a political convention. None of which changes the fact that America is weaker in the world under the Presidency of Barack Obama, our values and culture are not as strong, and our economy, despite what they say, is worse off. Promises were made in 2008 and were not kept and the American people know it. A close election will remain close, but I choose to have faith that the American people will ultimately do the right thing when it matters.

Sunday- Various Democrats go on the talk shows and offer mixed messages on whether or not we are better off than we were four years ago. They seemed woefully unprepared for such an inevitable question, and it's a bad start to the convention week. However, since it is Labor Day weekend, not a lot of people are engaged.

Monday- Democrats try to go back and say that yes, despite what was said by people such as Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley the day before, we are better off. O'Malley himself flip flops on the matter. Anticipation builds for the convention, especially after the revelation that the overly hyped expectations for a GOP post-convention bounce did not occur. Polls indicate that Romney likely gained a couple points or so in the horse race and that his favorable numbers improved as well, but it was about as modest of a "bounce" as I had expected and written about before.

Tuesday- The convention gets underway. The platform is approved, however there are a few big changes form the previous 2008 version. For one thing, there are several changes in regards to the party's position on Israel. Most significantly, the words affirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel are missing. Also, Democrats take out any reference for the first time of the word "G-d." But after all, they have Obama.

A video is run in which someone says that "government is the only thing we all belong to." That seems to be the theme they will be pushing for the week. How terribly misguided. We, as Americans, do not "belong" to the government. The government belongs to us. We control it and run it. It does not control us and run us That in a nutshell is the biggest difference of philosophy between the two parties.

The speakers proceed to be overwhelmingly negative, (as expected) against Mitt Romney and Republicans. To be sure, Obama and Democrats were criticized at the GOP convention, and this is all part of the political process. I would never anticipate or expect Republicans to not be mocked or criticized at the other party's convention, but they clearly did it far more often and far more personally than Republicans did the week before. Even the Ted Kennedy Memorial Tribute Video is turned into an attack on Mitt Romney. Unbelievably tacky.

Keynote speaker, Julian Castro, the Mayor of San Antonio, Texas speaks and I don't see the hype. He gave a fine partisan speech as far as those things go, but I did not see anything too special about him as an orator. He was nowhere near the level of Obama himself was in his 2004 keynote. Of course, I am biased about all this. I just thought it was an average speech. Also, how is Castro going to one day be President of the United States if Democrats cannot win statewide in Texas to begin with?

First Lady Michelle Obama closed the night and there is no doubt she is an effective and charismatic speaker. I totally expected that. After all, she is a lawyer who has lots of practice giving speeches. She did spent most of her address going into the backgrounds of herself and her husband. It sounds almost word for word what she said four years earlier at the convention. I guess they felt the need to reintroduce themselves during this period of people being so unsatisfied with the Obama Presidency. So, she talks much about how they were struggling economically earlier in their lives and careers. Ann Romney seemed to hit the same themes the week earlier. Mrs. Obama talks about how she and her husband were "so in love, so in debt." I find those words ironic. Many Americans fell in love with Obama in 2008 and now we are very much more in debt.

I sensed an underlying theme of her speech about how economic wealth (such as what Mitt Romney has achieved and what many Americans aspire to) is not really that big of a deal. She seemed to be saying that people should be happy struggling and in debt, as she and Barack used to be, as long as they remember how much they loved him and hopefully still do. To me, it sounded like she was asking Americans to lower their expectations and standards of life, in order to look to the government for help and to be content with only reaching a certain level of comfort in America. While I of course find that mindset abhorrent, I recognize she did a fine performance. I just was a bit taken aback by the overwhelming media gushing that would ensue. All things considered, I thought Ann Romney had a more important task, and accomplished more. Media spin though, especially among those who do not watch these events live, do tend to influence a lot of public opinion.

Wednesday- A surprise development on the convention floor during the day as a motion is made to change the rules and re-add Jerusalem and G-d to the platform. Apparently, amid the controversy, Obama himself personally intervened to fix the problem. Convention Chairman, Antonio Villaragoisa, the Mayor of Los Angeles tries to get this done from the podium and runs into problems. Democrats needed a two-third voice vote to amend the platform and he looks like in a deer caught in the headlights as he three times calls for the vote, and each time, the no's sound slightly larger than the ayes. It's definitely not 2/3 ayes, but he finally announces it as such, as the crowd then breaks into loud angry boos as the CSPAN cameras roll. Some media outlets do not give this episode much attention, but it has to be considered the most embarrassing and potentially most damaging event to occur at a party convention in years, as Democrats boo Jerusalem and especially the inclusion of G-d into their formal document.

There would also be other instances of embarrassing behavior among delegates over the week, with numerous references comparing Republicans to Nazis, the Jewish Chairman of a county party in Florida telling a television camera that he dislikes and distrusts Christians, and a Puerto Rico female delegate saying to a camera that Mitt Romney will "destroy" America and she would want to "kill" him if she ever saw him. The Secret Service, appropriately is involved, and while she almost certainly poses no threat, it is unbelievable that a delegate to a major party convention could muse about murdering the candidate of the other party. Had the roles been reversed, with a GOP delegate threatening Obama or anyone else in such a way, it would have been an overwhelmingly huge media firestorm.

Prime time brought about a speech by Elizabeth Warren, the now Massachusetts Senate nominee, and I thought it was a stylistically horrible speech, full of ridiculous doom and gloom. The crowd seemed to love it of course, as did many in the media. I just do not get these people at all.

Finally, speaking for close to an hour, was former President Bill Clinton. We all know he can talk and is a very good politician. We all also should know the history he has of lying and playing loose with the truth. That was in effect as well as so much of what he said did not add up. While I thought that Clinton looked and sounded a bit past his prime, he still gave what was considered a great performance. I sort of get it and I sort of do not at the same time. I thought parts of his speech wandered and meandered all over the place and that his sarcastic and angry tone was both off-putting and undignified. I will say though that despite the factual accuracy of what he said, the Democrats probably do not have anyone who is as good of a communicator as Clinton is and thus, I knew the media would fawn all over it, especially at the end, when Obama came out for the hug. The media reaction went far beyond even what I expected. So many all but declared the election over at that point. This was like North Korean state media stuff, especially on MSNBC. Chris Matthews mused that Bill Clinton was talented enough to make babies with Martians.

Some other big news during the day was the change in venue for the Thursday session of the convention. The plan to have it in the big outdoor football stadium (as they did in 2008) was scrapped, with the official reason being weather threats. Many though believe that the event was downsized for a different reason. While the 20,000 or so delegates and alternates who filled the somewhat small arena were certainly enthusiastic, it would have been extremely hard to fill the entire 65,000 seat stadium and that would have looked bad on television, rain or not. So, while Clint Eastwood spoke to an empty chair on the final night of the GOP convention, the final night of the Democrat convention would see an entire football stadium filled with empty chairs. In that regard, Democrats missed out on what could have been a powerful optic on television (as they enjoyed in 2008), disappointed many who did make the trip for the event, and lost out on specific organizing efforts that were designed to get all the people who did not make it to the Obama speech volunteering or donating to the campaign, especially in the battleground state of North Carolina. All of this was kind of lost in all the events of the week, but it's too big to totally ignore.

Thursday- So a packed house returned to the arena, for more Romney bashing and Obama worship on the final night. Joe Biden, was left out of prime-time, as Bill Clinton was deemed more important to showcase, but the incumbent Vice President accepted the nomination with only one broadcast network airing it live. (NBC made up the time as they had NFL football the night before). If I am being honest, Joe Biden probably gave the strongest speech of the convention.

I found him dishonest, phony, bordering on ludicrous to be sure, but as a Republican, I have to recognize that at times like this, he knows how to give a speech. The key to Biden is making sure he never deviates from the teleprompter. I still think he runs the risk of going majorly off message as the campaign continues, but he more than did his job this week, despite the fact that very few delegates would prefer him for 2016 and so many of them would have preferred Hillary Clinton taking his job this week.  It's probably a good thing hfor Republicans though that he was not on during "prime time" though.

Finally, Barack Obama himself accepted renomination. It is a given that he can be a powerful speaker with a prepared text and that his oratorical skills are impressive. Nonetheless, I think his speech was terrible, and even the media seemed to be of the impression that it was not an overwhelming success. As much as I was dreading watching the convention and Democrat party, I felt better about this election, while watching Obama speak, because it seemed to me like he was off his game.

Things had been set up for him so well to just be positive and "Presidential" during this address, but his tone was angry, condescending, and included some ridiculously unnecessary and completely inaccurate cheap shots against Mitt Romney, particularly on foreign policy aspects. I guess he just cannot help himself. Otherwise, he went along with a major theme of the convention that while they had chanted "Yes We Can" four years ago, they now are claiming that no President could have really done anything to improve the economy a vast deal, but things are still better. The political reality is that people do not feel like they are better and its risky for an incumbent party to come across as potentially being so out of touch. This was not Obama's finest hour, not by a long shot. Still though, viewers were going to recognize that he is a good speaker and that probably helps him, especially as it relates to energizing his base.

Friday- After the convention, all eyes were on the job numbers to be released. While on the surface a slight drop in the unemployment rate could create decent headlines for Obama, most of the consensus was that the results were very poor and would not be helpful politically for the incumbent. The economy created far fewer jobs than anticipated, a very large number of Americans had dropped out of the workforce the month before, indicating that they had lost all hope. The economy and the jobs situation continue to be quite bad and that is still a tremendous risk to Obama's reelection chances. As Mitt Romney said on Friday, if the night before was the party, Friday morning was the "hangover."

Saturday- By today, we have seen several polls indicating that Obama and his party have received at least a modest bounce. I am not surprised one bit. They put on a good show (minus some rough spots and distractions) and the media treated it like the greatest event America has ever seen. It certainly helps to have the latter convention, and it was to their benefit to be able to quickly try to refute what Republicans had said the week before. I did not hear much in the way of a fight back against the "You Didn't Built It" meme that Obama had stepped in.

It is clear though that Obama now has a lead of three or four points nationally and I totally expected that. It might take about another week for the buzz of the convention to totally wear off, but I think by then, the race will look like a tie once again. It may very well be that liberals are now more enthusiastic (whether temporary or not) about the election and that much of Obama's bump will come in states that are not the battleground ones. The election will of course come down in the Electoral College to just five or six contested states.

I believe both parties achieved what they had sent out to do at the conventions but both also missed some opportunities. For example, much has been made about the fact that Mitt Romney, despite giving lengthy remarks the day before at an American Legion convention, did not specifically use the words "troops" or "Afghanistan" in his speech. It is of course, dishonest and unfair to suggest that Romney and the GOP are somehow anti-military, but that is precisely what the Democrats tried to say at their convention. We will see which party gets most of the military and veteran vote this year. I do not think it will be the Democrats.

As a quick aside, I did not hear anything from either party convention about the issue of crime. That troubles me. There is a tremendous moral crisis going on in parts of America. Neighborhoods of Chicago, the home of Barack Obama, and not all that far from where I live, resemble a war zone, as innocent people are being gunned down in shocking numbers as part of gang warfare. America cannot truly be America, as long as this problem exists and becomes more severe. To the swing voters in the middle class and upper middle class suburbs across America, this may not be a pressing issue, but far too many black and brown people are being needlessly slaughtered and the nation is crying out for moral leadership. Street gangs need to be conquered and a respect for human life needs to be reestablished. Despite the rap videos say, we need a lot more "snitching" in America, and more family structure, especially as it relates to fathers taking responsibility for their offspring to help alleviate this horrible situation. If my candidate, Mitt Romney becomes President, I hope he will show the courage to address it head-on, as it sadly does not seem to be a political priority to the nation's first African-American President, who should have had some moral credibility to speak out far more.

Convention season is now thankfully over. The campaign will be moving on to a new phase, as we await the critical first debate. The Romney campaign will hopefully be spending much money to hammer Obama and the Democrats in the days and week ahead. This election is close and the outcome is so important to the very future of the United States of America.

After the Republican convention, I was "fired up" to help see Mitt Romney win the White House and after the Democrat convention, I am "ready to go" in trying to see that the failed Barack Obama and his dishonest party get the electoral drubbing they so richly deserve.

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