In accepting the Republican Party nomination for president, Mitt Romney, the wealthy former governor of Massachusetts, seemed on the one hand a good guy, a decent man who cares about family and did a sound and compassionate job (think of “Romneycare”) in one term as governor of Massachusetts.
But part of Romney seems uncomfortable with the national spotlight that shone on his party this past week in Tampa. Perhaps some of that discomfort comes from representing a party that has developed hard-line views on women’s rights, health care reform, and the privatization of Medicare. And it’s a party whose tea party members have long believed Romney to be a closet moderate. Perhaps that’s why Romney seemed tense when he was in the convention hall in Tampa after his wife, Ann, spoke on Tuesday.
In any event, the nominee tried to make his own case Thursday night. He had some nice anecdotes about his late father, George Romney, who once headed an auto company and served as governor of Michigan. Romney is at his best when he’s positive. The role he played in part of his speech, going negative on the president, drawing choruses of catcalls against President Obama, just doesn’t fit him.
It was as ill-fitting, in fact, as actor Clint Eastwood’s performance as a convention speaker.
After four years
Romney, borrowing from Ronald Reagan’s playbook, wanted people to consider whether they were better off after nearly four years of President Obama than they were four years ago.
It’s a dangerous question. For him.
When Obama took office, President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and loose regulation of the financial industry, along with the mortgage crisis and wars financed solely through borrowing, had brought the country to the brink of economic collapse.
In November of 2008, a couple of weeks after Obama’s victory, the Dow Jones average was at around 7,500. Today it’s around 13,000. The housing market was beginning a steep, steep dive. Today, it is rebounding. The automobile industry was looking at bankruptcy and total failure. Obama’s policies rescued it.
Though criticized for it, the president took on health care reform which is phasing in, but already parents can keep their children on their insurance until the age of 26. Sick children have access to health insurance they previously were denied. By 2014, those with pre-existing medical conditions will be able to get insurance, affordable insurance, they’ve previously been unable to find.
There are still problems out there, no question. But some Americans are indeed better off. A lot better off.
Next on stage
A couple of Republican speakers mentioned the need for “compromise.” Yet all the Republican House has done in the last three-plus years is sabotage Obama’s initiatives. And the Republican solution to the lingering high unemployment rate is to lower taxes on the wealthy, which might well result in more taxes for the middle class. The party wants to eliminate much safety and environmental regulation on business in the name of job stimulation. Romney, who indicated in his speech he thought business experience was vital to being president, says he’ll create 12 million jobs, but he has few specifics.
Perhaps it should be noted that a very successful businessman who occupied the White House was Herbert Hoover, who presided over the beginning of the Great Depression.
This week Democrats take the public stage in Charlotte, where they will have a chance to talk about accomplishments and challenges. The president and his advocates will bring forward their jobs plan (Obama actually had one that was rejected by Republicans in Congress). They will stand for women’s rights, public education, and the strengthening of Medicare and Social Security as bedrocks of what a good, compassionate society does for its older citizens.
We shall see if the Democrats choose a positive route, not lingering to pour blame on the Bush administration when it comes to the economic downturn but talking instead about the days ahead, the way forward. Indeed, that is one of the watchwords of Obama’s campaign. That is appropriate, for many Americans are struggling, but still determined that they and their children, instilled with American courage and focus, will move precisely in that direction.