As your political Mouse, I viewed the Obama-rama tonight with my little rodent mind wide open, my little rodent nose twitching alertly, and my little rodent whiskers at attention. I had no expectations other than it would be a gigantic spectacle. What I got was a gigantic spectacle with a well rehearsed and delivered, inspirational speech replete with some McCain put-downs that will come back to haunt Obama, as well as a standard litany of empty liberal promises.
I have no doubts that the inspirational and well delivered aspects of the speech will cause a bounce in the polls. At this stage the polls mean nothing but I still want to give credit where credit is due. The speech was good. Not great, just good. However, Thursday night speeches at presidential nominating conventions are always inspirational and well delivered. We expect it, so it should come as no great surprise that we get it.
Completely to Obama’s credit, this was a truly historic occasion, a momentous one in this country’s history. Not a single politician in today’s political arena could have filled that stadium—not George W. Bush, not John McCain, not John Kerry (snicker), not Al Gore (chortle) and neither Sheryl Crow nor Michael McDonald. Only Obama, the Pope, and the Rolling Stones could have brought 85,000 people to Invesco Field. That is pretty impressive.
What Obama attempted to do with his well-rehearsed speech and his meticulous TelePrompter assisted delivery was to preach to the common man (or woman, already), the workers. Those are the votes he is after. Undoubtedly, he has been coached to move more toward the center to attract more votes than he could by maintaining his hard-line liberal (#1 most liberal voting record in the senate) posture. What he seemed to try hardest to do was to convince the voters with his bio film and his speech that he was a common man—one of them—not an elitist who doesn’t connect with the working man, the hunters with deer rifles, and other assorted little people he has offended in his primary machinations. Very clearly, much of the speech was an attempt to regain their confidence. We kept hearing about the workers. (Has a Communist Party ring to it, but I digress.) He said he is not a celebrity and that the whole thing was about them, not him.
Another large portion of the speech was directed at the current administration’s failures, from which he extrapolated John McCain’s ultimate failures along the same lines. His handlers seem to be hanging their hats on McCain voting 90% with President Bush. “I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have a ten percent chance of change,” Obama said. Numbers like that are meaningless, if you make yourself aware that most of the bills that are voted on in Congress are not associated with partisan issues. For example, a bill honoring the New York Giants for winning the Super Bowl would get an all but unanimous vote. Let’s look at Obama’s record in the same context. Even the most liberal voting member of congress would have voted “with President Bush” on a substantial number of bills. Of course, the 90% thing, associated with an unpopular president, makes McCain sound like a Bush clone. He isn’t. But Obama had to say it, because his programmers want him to, and because the Bush 3 accusation is one of his campaign’s linchpins.
Another big indictment of McCain was that he believes in supporting big business and “trickle-down” to the masses. (The workers.) Obama said that what this translates to is you’re on your own. In this Mouse’s mind, that is a good thing. As an individual, you determine whether you succeed or fail. “Government” should not be supplying safety nets, which in this Mouse’s mind translate to disincentives to productivity. So, this particular bit of ideologically based McCain bashing is just campaign rhetoric. Yeah, Barack. We know that Democrats are the populists who are the great saviors (and vote buyers) of the people. We get it. No need to rub it in, unless you’re campaigning for the idiot vote.
Obama paid lip service to reaching across the aisle and uniting America. How? He’s never done that as a U.S. Senator. So, it’s just talk. McCain has actually done it (viz. McCain-Finegold and McCain-Kennedy). Will Obama actually eliminate partisanship with his naïve “New Politics for a New Time?” If he, himself has never reached across the aisle in his brief career as a senator, why should we believe that he will do so as president?
Obama bashed McCain for “wanting to continue [the] misguided war” in Iraq, and claimed credit for wanting the troops out of Iraq. This rhetoric seemed rather feeble, almost preposterous, as the truth of the matter is that the Iraqis have now proposed a timetable for our withdrawal by 2011. In other words, the surge that Obama failed to support worked. Iraq would have gone completely to hell and many more of our servicemen would have been maimed or killed there without that surge Obama did not support. That the war was “misguided” is immaterial in the context of how to best proceed from this juncture. The fact that the Iraqis and the Bush Administration have worked out a withdrawal by 2011 has clearly taken the wind out of the Obama sails and his handlers don’t like it one bit. It is pretty hard to spin this area believably, so they’re really pushing it. They’re promising what has already been decided.
That’s the problem with Thursday night acceptance speeches. They’re generically big on promises and short on solutions. Obama told us what he would do in many different spheres, but mostly the same old liberal laundry list. To say that the objectives were pie in the sky would be generous. For example, he promised to end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil in 10 years. Pretty tall order. First of all, even if he manages to get himself elected, he will not be in office in 10 years, but that’s beside the point. How? That’s the big question. Is it even possible? This Mouse thinks that in this promise, Obama was trying to duplicate the can-do spirit of John F. Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. That it was 10 years from January 1961 to the end of the decade suggests that Obama believes the Kennedy time horizon will work for eliminating dependence on Middle Eastern oil, too, and that it will inspire the development of a cohesive program to get there. Maybe that is possible, but unlike a space program that the entire country could get behind as a matter of pride, there are too many special interests in today’s complex society to expect that the same thing could occur in providing renewable energy. Environmentalists alone will throw the monkey wrench into any plan for drilling for oil or for building nuclear power plants. How long does it take to plan and build a nuclear power plant, given the plethora of red tape involved? Can Obama accelerate that timeline? How?
That’s the big question for the night: How? (Does this sound like a Lockheed-Martin commercial?)
Further itemization of clearly enunciated campaign promises without any elaboration of “the how” followed. Here is the laundry list:
- We will create a new tax code that rewards those who create jobs, not the people who wrote it – a tax cut for 95% of the people
- In 10 years we will finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East
- We will provide every child a world class education
- We will provide affordable health care for every single American
- We will provide more sick days and family leave
- We will change bankruptcy laws so pensions protected
- We will change Social Security so benefits are protected
- We will implement equal Pay for equal days work
And, of course, to placate the working men of Pennsylvania who are also inveterate hunters, we will abide by the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which gives us the right to bear arms, without putting AK47’s in the hands of terrorists and criminals. (I’m glad he disassociated those two nefarious classes of humanity, or lack of same.)
Again, the foremost question is: How?
Well, Obama had an answer, at least for the funding how. He would eliminate tax preferences for those doggone greedy corporations who already make enough money and he would go through the federal budget line by line in order to eliminate “programs that don’t work.” Oh, yeah? How is he going to determine what works and what doesn’t work. Any ideas which programs we’re talking about here? We can’t figure out the how without knowing the what. Furthermore, this recycled Carter campaign promise is completely unrealistic in view of the way congress works against any contraction of government—particularly Democrat run congresses. Jimmy tried, but he was frustrated, winding up defensively making a public speech with a huge flow chart that demonstrated the steps necessary to fire a civil servant. It was beyond his capabilities to eliminate even a single civil servant, let alone entire bureaucratic departments. What makes Obama think he can succeed in doing so? Answer: He knows he can’t, but he doesn’t think we know he knows. You know?
At the conclusion, he dragged out the speech by invoking that famous Republican civil rights crusader, the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who 45 years ago this day marched on Washington with his dream. With his voice quavering à la King, Obama referred to “the preacher” and what he said in Washington. He then took a page from JFK’s 1960 Los Angeles acceptance speech when he quoted scriptures. (JFK referred to the prophet Isaiah; Obama just went with the generic scriptures.) He finished off with God bless you all and God bless the United States of America. Again, with the preacher voice. Very dramatic, rousing, and probably effective. But will it offend the atheistic component of his constituency?
This was an inspirational speech, but the content was recycled Democrat promises we’ve been hearing for the past 20 years. This is change? I think not. A package of tired old political promises wrapped in shiny new paper with a great big bow does not signify change. It’s business as usual in a pretty package. None of those promises ever seem to come to fruition, even if those who enunciate them actually get themselves elected. I wonder why.
This Mouse knows that there will be a nice bounce in the polls due to Obama’s speech, but that the Thursday night euphoria will not last very long. It’s kind of like a one-night stand. When the afterglow fades, one tends to ask, “What the hell am I doing here?” Sooner or later, people will ask, “How?” and similarly wonder what they’re doing in one camp or the other. They will need much more than vacuous acceptance speeches to formulate their voting direction, no matter how inspired they are by the flashy rhetoric. The real answers will come out during the three scheduled debates between McCain and Obama. These broadcast public appearances will probably determine who wins the forthcoming election. Not that tonight’s speech or next Thursday night’s should be considered wasted by any means—they’re great marketing tools and they nicely set up the campaign path ahead, but between now and the debates, realistic and believable answers for these “how?” questions will have to be generated by each candidate’s organization.
To be honest, a couple of completely unrelated things could screw the Republicans at this point, once the euphoria fades. One is Tropical Storm Gustav, which may or may not hit New Orleans, but will certainly energize the full efforts of Democrat attack dogs to bring back old, nasty memories and make it clear that Bush and the Republicans screwed up New Orleans in Katrina (with no mention, of course, of the then extant Democrat Mayor, an idiot, and the Democrat Governor, an idiotess). So, that’s one thing, especially since the current Louisiana governor is one of the GOP’s bright, shining hopes.
The other is McCain’s vice presidential selection, which is imminent. The candidate will be announced Friday noon, in Dayton. At the time this Mouse is writing this, it is known that Mitt Romney will be in Dayton, but Mike Huckabee will not. This does not mean that Romney is the selection; it just means that he is still a possibility. The perception of the vice presidential candidate by the voters can either make or break the McCain campaign.
Now that the lights are out, this Mouse is going to sneak into the kitchen and feed his furry face. I’ll write more from under the sofa tomorrow.