Highlights, or lowlights, from the final night of the Democratic National Convention:
President Obama said that he and Mitt Romney offered "two fundamentally different visions for the future."
Then he promised to "cut our oil imports in half by 2020." In Mr. Romney's Republican Convention speech, Mr. Romney had promised that "by 2020 North America will be energy independent." These visions don't seem fundamentally different to me. In fact they seem pretty similar.
Mr. Obama offered a grab-bag of other numerical goals: "a million new manufacturing jobs in the next four years," "100,000 math and science teachers within the next ten years," "cut in half the growth of tuition costs with the next ten years." Even if he wins he only has four years left in office, so setting ten-year goals seems somewhat ambitious.
The one goal Mr. Obama didn't put a number of years or a date on was his claim, "my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion." The annual deficit is running at about $1.3 trillion, so Mr. Obama must be talking about reductions of $4 trillion over some extended period of time, but he didn't say how long.
Mr. Obama attempted to sound a note of humility at one point, saying that he is "mindful of my own failings." But in the next breath, he likened himself to President Lincoln.
The president offered a caricature of the Republican agenda, saying that Mr. Romney and Paul Ryan favored "spending trillions more on new tax breaks for the wealthy" (as if letting people keep the money they own or earn is the same as "spending") and accusing the Republicans of wanting to kick children out of Head Start and eliminating health insurance for the poor, elderly, and disabled. He said the Republican approach was, "If you can't afford health insurance, hope that you don't get sick."
He said the Republicans had a standard remedy: "Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning." It was one more promise of Republican tax cuts for individuals than Mr. Romney had delivered in his own convention speech, which mysteriously failed to mention his tax-cutting plans.
The rest of the evening went pretty much the way the previous two nights went — lots of talk about how Mr. Obama rescued the auto industry. Pell grants for students, prescription drugs for seniors, jobs for auto workers. Again, no mention of how this is all paid for.
Senator Kerry got in a few zingers on foreign policy, advising Mr. Romney, "before you debate Barack Obama on foreign policy, you better finish the debate with yourself." He complained that Mr. Romney "has all these neocon advisers."
Vice President Biden complained that Mr. Romney "was willing to let Detroit go bankrupt" without mentioning that the Obama administration's own restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler involved putting both companies through bankruptcy.
Xavier Becerra, a Democratic congressman from California, said, "Maybe Governor Romney has forgotten how we got into the mess that President Obama faced, but we haven't—two wars, tax breaks for the wealthiest, the Wall Street bailout, Katrina!" Maybe Congressman Becerra has forgotten that President Obama voted for the bailout!
The Democrats repeatedly expressed satisfaction that the war in Iraq was over, but said nothing about what conditions are like in Iraq now.
I have to say I found the whole event somewhat dispiriting, not so much in the sense that I expected much different from either Mr. Obama or his party, but in the sense that America faces some real challenges and President Obama did little at the convention to build consensus or lead toward solutions, other than to imply somehow that raising taxes on the rich and spending money on solar and wind power would be a cure-all. Notwithstanding the ten-year plans, it was light on the substance of a second-term Obama agenda, and heavy instead on demonizing the Republicans, along with Wall Street bankers, oil companies, and insurance companies. I wasn't much thrilled by Mr. Romney's speech either. Perhaps it is the nature of these convention speeches or the campaign season to avoid specifics in favor of hazy truisms: Mr. Obama's "a country where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules," Mr. Romney's, "Now is the
time to restore the promise of America." Such approaches may help one or the other of them get elected, but they won't make the job much easier for whichever one of them wins when they find themselves having to govern.
For what it's worth, Michael Tomasky, who is way, way to the left of me, also didn't like the lack of specifics.