James Anderson writes from Charlotte: Everyone was waiting to be wowed by the best orator in America.
He was funny, precise, hard hitting, turned a beautiful phrase and touched the heart. He received an ovation fit for a rock star. Barack Obama? No. I’m talking about Bill Clinton. If he were running for President, he would walk it. But he is not. So why did Obama disappoint? He has a silver tongue, knows how to reach an audience but afterwards the feeling was that it had all fallen flat.
Obama decided to play it safe. He avoided telling everyone he was going to make them richer and that he was on course to stop the Arctic ice melting. He told the audience the hard truth. The next four years are going to be tough. That should have been the cue for him to spell out what he intended to do to help ordinary people survive and even prosper. What did we get? Another 100,000 maths and science teachers. Absolutely necessary but how does this affect the average person in the street who has left school? Obama gave the impression that the future is a big, black hole. Was he afraid of saying something Romney could capitalise on?
His record is like the curate’s egg: good in parts. He overruled his generals who advised him to bomb Osama bin Laden’s compound flat. He told the military to go in, waste him and collect all the data possible. It has proved a mine of information and has led to many Al Qaeda top commanders being killed. He went for a bailout of the auto industry in the teeth of Republican opposition. Just look at how Detroit hums today. He also bailed out the banks – again strenuously opposed by Republicans. Well, he saved the banks but the long term consequences are not clear. In the short term it was the right thing to do. Did he trumpet his successes? No. A Bill Clinton would have had everyone stamping and shouting: ‘Bill saved America and us. Thank you, our son’. Something held Obama back. Bob Woodward in his new book says Obama in 2009 was over confident and under prepared. So he had the belief that he could do anything. Four years in office have changed him. He has learnt a hard lesson: he now knows that leadership is about what you can do, not what you want to do. Here is one of his greatest weaknesses: he is unwilling to listen to opposing views because he is convinced he is right. He has failed to forge alliances with Republicans. He told one in 2009: ‘Eric, we won’. In other words, I don’t need your policy suggestions.
The Convention was mismanaged at times. The greatest embarrassment was over amendments to the Democratic Platform or manifesto. References to God and Jerusalem being the capital of Israel were removed. The chair then called for a floor vote on whether they should be reinserted. On my hearing the result was almost a dead heat. However the chair declared that the ‘ayes’ had a two thirds majority. They were reinserted. Again howls of protest. A totally avoidable fiasco. Will there be any fallout? The Democrat delegates were clearly farther to the left than the average Democrat. What will the non-committed make of it? Only time will tell.
Joe Biden surprised many by making a rousing speech. He spoke from the heart and thanked all military personnel for their sacrifices and service. This was an astute move as Romney had omitted to mention serving soldiers in his acceptance speech.
Fifty nine days to go now. It is neck and neck. Neither Obama nor Romney have convinced the undecided voter. It is all to play for.