The family Labor Day cookout was on Sunday, so I was able to spend some quiet time on Labor Day watching the national debt clock heading for $16 trillion. The Republicans were displaying it during their convention, and now I can follow it on my computer at usdebtclock.org. It’s like monitoring your car odometer to see it hit 100,000 miles, except it’s moving really fast. It’s hypnotic — glad I’m not driving.
The theme of the first night of the Republican Convention was “We Built It”, combining defiance of President Obama and Elizabeth Warren’s declarations that “you didn’t build it” to hard-working American entrepreneurs, and tribute to those small businessmen/women who did.
Republican governors, whose states are leading the way to government overhaul, introduced businessmen and women who started with nothing, took risks, worked very hard, built their businesses and created jobs. New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who has worked successfully with Democrats on budget control, confidently led into Wednesday’s theme, “We Can Change It” — referring to the status quo that I think most of us recognize isn’t working.
My two favorite speakers that second night: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky spoke for the libertarian element of the party, reminding us that “we must never trade our liberty for any fleeting promise of security”, and “you, the individual are the engine of America’s greatness.” Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, my first choice for vice president, introduced Paul Ryan. Her best line referred to President Obama and the $5 trillion he’s added to the debt: “If he can take credit for building small business, he can take responsibility for building that.”
Ryan was criticized for not talking about his and Romney’s specific plan for change during his speech; but as House Budget Committee chairman, he has the only plan on the table – the Democrats haven’t passed a budget in three years. His role at the convention was to be the traditional VP pit bull, laying out the economic failures of the Obama administration; you can find the worst on the debt clock site, which notes the official 12.5 million, actual 23 million, unemployed Americans.
Though the lovely Ann Romney had spoken about her husband the second night, the third night featured heart-warming tributes from other people who know him, have worked with him, and — perhaps a surprise to many who just tuned in — were helped by him.
My partner Chip Ford and I disagreed about Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech. He thought it was terrific, I was disappointed. I’d already heard the personal story he told and was hoping to hear his outline for dealing with the America we saw starting to unravel in 2008.
Chip reminded me that the candidate wasn’t talking to me, who knew him as governor and had always liked him; Mitt was talking to undecided voters who had been told that he was cold, mean, and anti-women. He had to address those accusations and he did, with mention of the women in his cabinet as governor and major speaking roles at the convention from strong, successful women.
I know Chip is right; but I think it’s a shame. The character attacks began here in Massachusetts, with a corps of Republicans who had disliked him from the beginning, why I don’t really know. There was resentment concerning his choice of lieutenant governor, though I thought Kerry Healey was perfect for the job, should have been elected governor in 2006, and is one of Romney’s best spokespersons for this presidential campaign.
I understand the opposition within the Republican Party to “RomneyCare”, but his in-party opponents kept up their personal attacks, which were picked up and repeated by his primary opponents and then of course the Obama campaign. So instead of moving forward to address the issues of the day, Mitt had to spend his prime-time speech proving that he is a good human being. I hope having heard the convention tributes, his local enemies will now get aboard to save America.
The Obama campaign and Democrats also attacked his record at Bain Capital, and from somewhere came concerns about Mormons. Both entities fought back at the convention; it was great to see them stand up for themselves and for Mitt.
Republicans also fought the fabricated accusation of racism and dislike of immigrants, featuring very effective black and Hispanic speakers. The television networks didn’t cover most of those however; I’m grateful for C-Span, where I watched the entire convention as it happened so I can declare it a success with some authority.
Next stop was the Sunday morning talking-head shows, where the Democrats scrambled on defense and damage control. Having lost their best arguments against Romney, they now pivot their attack machine onto Paul Ryan, obviously fearing that his youth and good-natured optimism may draw both women and some of those young voters who are disillusioned by Obama. The challenge for Republicans is to stay focused on the economy instead of being distracted by the social issues that turn off these two demographics.
The debt clock is ticking: it hit $16 trillion on the first night of the Democrats’ Convention, during which I didn’t hear their plan to deal with it.
Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a regular contributor to the opinion pages. Her views on the Democratic National Convention will appear next Sunday.