Seconds before beginning what factions of the conservative pundit community billed as “the most important speech of his life,” President Obama hugged First Lady Michelle Obama, and you if paid close enough attention, you could see her tell him, “You got it, babe.”
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With an economy that has shown nominal signs of improvement, yet remains marred with high levels of joblessness, the president needed to nail his two-term pitch to voters. In his quest to do so, he meshed the themes of “hope” and “change” from the previous campaign with the political realities of today.
It began with a critique of the tone of his competitor’s convention:
“Now, our friends at the Republican convention were more than happy to talk about everything they think is wrong with America, but they didn’t have much to say about how they’d make it right. They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan.”
He then mocked the GOP’s way of governing:
“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!”
He also defended the Democratic point-of-view in the wake of GOP caricaturing:
“We don’t think the government can solve all our problems. But we don’t think that the government is the source of all our problems, any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.”
Obama also listed some of his first-term accomplishments: Cutting taxes for the middle class, saving the American auto industry, and “signed trade agreements that are helping our companies sell more goods to millions of new customers.”
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He went on to explain that, “After a decade of decline, this country created over half a million manufacturing jobs in the last two and a half years.” Moreover, the Obama administration has raised fuel standards, doubled usage of renewable energy, and slashed oil imports that has made the country “less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.”
Obama revealed that he was less than impressed with Romney’s use of sarcasm when touching on climate change during his acceptance speech, quipping in response that “climate change is not a hoax” and that “more droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke. They’re a treat to our children’s future.”
Whereas Romney offered scant details about how exactly he’d boost education and the job market, Obama asked of the country to “Help me recruit 100,000 math and science teachers in the next ten years” and “Help give two million workers the chance to learn skills at their community college that will lead directly to a job.”
The President even hammered the former Massachusetts governor on foreign policy, chastising him for declaring it was “tragic” to end the war in Iraq and for channeling Cold War talking points to address today’s global problems.
Obama asserted, “[You] don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. Keeping up with the headlines of the summer, Obama said flatly, “You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.”
However, Obama showed self-awareness and, arguably, some level of sobering by acknowledging:
“And while I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together, I’m far more mindful of my own failings, knowing exactly what Lincoln meant when he said, ‘I have been driven to my knees many times by the overwhelming conviction that I had no place else to go.”
Obama was clear about his successes, but it’s this instance of humility that may ultimately help him avoid a direct referendum of his first term in office. Through wit, candor, and passion, Obama made point after point to prove with this election, “You will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”
Which is why we saw Obama affirm, “[The] election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change.” Additionally, he stressed, “I need you to vote this November.”
Though remaining optimistic, Obama reiterated:
“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.”
President Obama may not have bested speeches given by his wife and former President Clinton, but Michelle Obama was right and Obama made a convincing case. Now it’s up to Obama’s supporters to see him through.