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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.

DS September 13, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Lisa- great article. I hope i am wrong, but i think he has a great chance of getting re-elected. There are too many ignorant voters who believe all of the liberal media's rhetoric about the White Male Devil Romney aka (anti woman, anti gay, anti elderly, anti latino, anti black) !! Half of the people voting dont know the real issues and dont realize that the USA as an economic and military power as we know it is being dismantled by this adminitration and 4 more years will destroy us. They get caught up in Obama's preacher like speeches, and the pathetic liberal media reporting that spins everything positive for him..
HL September 13, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Here we go again ... anything that disagrees with the GoP agenda is "rhetoric", those who believe it (even partially) are "ignorant" and "don't understand the real issues". A lot of Democrats (and indepenendts, mind you) would say the same about the GoP. For starters, anyone who says "4 more years of this will destroy us" is clearly drinking too much kool-aid. If either nominee is elected, we'll still be around in 4 more years, the only question is whether or not our situation will be slightly better or slightly worse over all. I've been hearing my entire life, post election from the losing party, that we are doomed. So far, we're still here - and things have never been perfect (since the first President was elected). Dismantling the military? What has REALLY dismantled the military has been the two wars we've fought. We've literally "dismantled" thousands of soldiers who are no longer with us (almost 5000 deceased, and almost 40K wounded in Iraw, plus another 2000 killed in Afhganistan and 12K wounded). We've spent over $800 billion on Iraq, and almost $600 billion in Afghanistan (1.4 trillion total). Those numbers have helped quite a bit to dismantle the military and the economy, and it put us in a position now where we are hamstrung on both sides with dangerous situations in both Iran and North Korea.
HL September 13, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I hear you Lisa, he's between a rock and a hard place. If he admits mistakes, or that the country is not better off than it was 4 years ago, the Republicans will use that as ammunition for the next few months, play the sound bites over and over again, and the lack of confidence would ring in people's ears. No question, admitting failure is almost always a bad thing ... it only works when you have a large enough spread to take the hit from it. Politicians with high favoritism levels can get away with saying I'm sorry, Obama doesn't have room for that. As an Indy, I am more frustrated with the polarized behavior in Washington from the consituents. I'm of the mind that after the Affordable Care Act was put in place by a Democratic majority, and the Bush-instigated collapsing economy convinced far too many to rashly vote in a wave of young Republican politicians, no one has been able to accomplish much of anything. It's been a stalemate for years, and the government has been paralyzed as a result. How can Obama and his administration really change anything when you have a 50/50 stalemate on both sides ensuring nothing gets changed? We couldn't even deal with fiscal cliffs as they approached as a result. You have half of Congress/Senators who dug in two years ago and agreed to do nothing until this election (regardless of how much worse that may make things in the short term), and the other half unwilling to bend as well knowing the tactic employed by their opponent.
Archie Bunker September 13, 2012 at 07:53 PM
If Obama gets re-elected, he will be hell-bent on trying to shape America into what he thinks it should be. Go see the movie 2016: Obama's America and see the people who raised, educated, and shaped his beliefs. If he can't get the Congress to go along with him, he will do it by executive order or anyway he can. There is nothing more dangerous to America than an Obama with 4 years left and no re-election to worry about.
MAC September 13, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Excellent piece, Lisa. Your best yet, imho. This is all being made academic by what is happening right now in the Middle East--the attacks on our embassies and MURDER of American diplomats and others!!! Those who in 2008 listened to/read the warnings about Obama's shady/radical associations are not surprised that he has apologized to Muslim leaders and invited the Muslim Brotherhood not only to take over Egypt, but into the WHITE HOUSE!!! Now his refusal to allow the State Dept., the Military, the FBI, CIA TSA and Homeland Security to call the Muslim extremist threat what it is--a global JIHAD to create a Caliphate which destroys not only Israel but the USA--is an EXISTENTIAL THREAT for our nation!!!!! Obama's worst FAILURE is his failure to LEAD, and to fulfill a president's most essential DUTY, which is to keep America SAFE!!! Obama is concerned only about his power and re-election, so much so that he has attended only 43 % of the PDBs (Presidential Daily Briefings) which are a critical part of that "most essential DUTY." http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Peace/2012/09/12/Exclusive-Obama-Skipped-Intel-Briefings-Week-Before-Embassy-Attacks

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