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Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012

The Upbeat Convention

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Everyone knows President Barack Obama is a great speaker, but there’s a reason why he also inspires seasoned politicians, a former president and previous presidential candidates to deliver some of the best speeches of their lives.

When a good man and a good president in the worst economic times most of us have ever known is attacked with a barrage of lies from political opponents who consistently voted to block America’s economic recovery, decent people rise up with passion.

In a convention speech compared to a world-class pitcher throwing perfect strikes—from center field—former President Bill Clinton perfectly summed up the Republican argument against Obama’s presidency:

“We left him a total mess. He hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.”

And Clinton had the authority to declare: “No president—not me, not any of my predecessors—could fully have repaired the damage he (Obama) found in just four years.”

Clinton was frank about the ugly reason behind some of the most intense opposition to America’s first African-American president: “Though I often disagreed with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate this president.”

At the Republican convention, most speakers who weren’t married to Mitt Romney generally avoided mentioning his name. In contrast, the Democratic convention was an exuberant celebration of Obama and the positive path he’s put the country on.

It’s no surprise how well Clinton can talk, but the convention also got a rip-roaring performance from reserved former presidential nominee John Kerry.

Of course, Kerry, an authentic Vietnam hero whose military career was trashed by an untruthful Republican campaign, had extra incentive to accurately direct charges used against him toward Romney, the all-time Olympic gold medalist in flip-flopping.

“It isn’t fair to say Mitt Romney doesn’t have a position on Afghanistan,” Kerry said. “He has every position!”

Kerry said Romney would alienate and mystify allies around the world. “For Mitt Romney, an overseas trip is what you call it when you trip all over yourself overseas.”

Kerry’s killer line: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off now than he was four years ago!”

All week Democrats answered that four-year question the media parroted from Republicans: “Absolutely!”

You know, 30 months of job growth—instead of job losses—that prevented another Great Depression; saving the U.S. automobile industry and millions of jobs by ignoring Romney’s published advice, “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt”; health care reform to cover 30 million uninsured people and pre-existing conditions while also closing the doughnut hole in Medicare prescription drug coverage—little things like that.

 

The Beauty of Honesty

And every one of those examples was true. The provable lies out of the Republican convention from Romney and his Wisconsin running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, bordered on the pathological.

“It’s the little lies that get you,” former presidential candidate Howard Dean told the Wisconsin delegation after Ryan was forced to admit publicly shaving more than an hour off his marathon running time. Real runners remember their exact times from every race.

The convention speech by first lady Michelle Obama, whose beauty goes way down deep, was riveting because of her honesty.

In a soft-spoken, almost intimate voice, she confessed her concern four years ago about how achieving the presidency would affect those she loved most—her husband and their daughters.

She said she’s now learned: “Being president doesn’t change who you are—it reveals who you are. … I didn’t think it was possible, but today I love my husband more than I did four years ago.”

Beautiful, young Hollywood actresses spoke at times, but even more beautiful were the featured women of accomplishment: Wisconsin Congresswomen Gwen Moore and Tammy Baldwin fighting for women’s health coverage and equality, Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth running for Congress on two prosthetic legs, and wounded former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, recovering from a brain injury from one of America’s mass shootings, providing the most moving moment of any convention by leading the Pledge of Allegiance.

Republicans gathered millionaire, white businessmen claiming they were the ones who built America. Democrats had some white millionaires, but they also had everybody else: working white, black and brown Americans and groups specifically marginalized by Republicans—women, immigrants, gays, unions, the elderly, the disabled, teachers, students and so many others.

Obama’s simple message was to credit all Americans for everything positive he’s been able to accomplish so far.

“You're the reason there's a little girl with a heart disorder in Phoenix who'll get the surgery she needs because an insurance company can't limit her coverage. You did that! …

“You're the reason a young immigrant who grew up here and went to school here and pledged allegiance to our flag will no longer be deported from the only country she's ever called home. You did that!”

And so did he.

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