Four big takeaways from the second night of the Democratic National Convention:
Negativity: Diana DeGette, a Democratic congresswoman from Colorado, said Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan "want to make women second-class citizens again." The governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, said Republicans are "engaged in a systemic effort to disenfranchise millions of African-Americans, Hispanics, and senior citizens." A nun, Sister Simone Campbell, described the Ryan budget as "immoral."
A mixed message on business: Unlike the Tuesday night session, tonight the Democrats at least made some effort to portray themselves as supportive of business. The governor of Delaware, Jack Markell, who helped build the Nextel cellular phone company, said, "I am a proud, card-carrying capitalist," and he also said, "I believe in private equity, which helped back Nextel." The administrator of the Small Business Administration, Karen Mills, said, "President Obama understands that small business is the backbone of our economy. He understands that Washington doesn't create jobs, small businesses do." The owner of Port City Brewing Company in Alexandria, Va., Bill Butcher, said, "our president has fought for small business owners." The cofounder of Costco, Jim Sinegal, and the former CEO of CarMax, a used-car company, Austin Ligon, also spoke.
But there was still plenty of demonization of business, especially the financial industry. The education secretary, Arne Duncan, boasted that President Obama "took the big banks out of the student loan business." The Democratic Senate candidate in Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law School professor who served as an adviser to President Obama, criticized both "oil companies" and "Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that wrecked our economy."
The Santa Claus President and Party: The Democrats and President Obama have free or heavily subsidized stuff for everybody. Pell Grants for college students. Small Business Administration loans for would-be-entrepreneurs. Free mammograms and contraceptives for women. Free medicine for senior citizens. A bailout for the auto industry. Often President Obama personally is credited for these goodies. Secretary Duncan said, "this year alone he helped nearly 10 million students afford a college education." Jim Hunt, the former governor of North Carolina, said of President Obama, "He's doubled funding for Pell Grants." Rep. Steny Hoyer said "President Obama has saved seniors more than $4 billion by closing the doughnut hole" for prescription drugs in Medicare. But Mr. Obama isn't paying for the Pell Grants or the prescription drugs out of his own pocket. He's borrowing money from China to do that, money that will have to be repaid eventually in the future by American taxpayers. It's easy to be generous with money you take from future taxpayers. The bet seems to be that people will like the goodies so much they will vote to reelect the president, and that there are more people receiving the goodies than there are voters who are worried about being taxed more in the future to pay for them.
Clinton: Bill Clinton spoke for a long time. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely, which is more than can be said for either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. It's been a while since I've seen him in an extended speech, but it all came back quickly, including the memory of what a good liar he is. There was one moment where he said, "with all my heart, I believe it," and then bit his lip in that classic Clinton way, and you had to almost laugh in watching how solemnly he was trying to convince himself that he really did believe whatever it was he was saying.
A few smaller points worth mentioning:
Two wars: Steny Hoyer faulted Paul Ryan for having "voted to put two wars on the credit card." Chris Van Hollen, another House Democrat, also faulted Republicans for the cost of "two wars" and "a new entitlement," presumably a reference to the Medicare prescription drug benefit. But hardly any Democrats opposed the war in Afghanistan, and President Obama, when he came into office, increased the troop commitment there. ObamaCare also makes the prescription drug benefit more expensive (to the federal government, not to seniors) by reducing the so-called doughnut hole range for which seniors must pay the cost of some drugs. It seems a little inconsistent to blame the Republicans alone for these components of the debt or deficit.
The Bain-Auto Bailout contrast: The convention contrasted a General Motors autoworker who said her job was saved by President Obama's auto bailout with three people identified as former employees of Bain Capital-owned businesses. The Bain-employed workers were all fired, though they claimed Bain made millions of dollars. But it's a false comparison, because Mr. Romney was investing his own and his partners money at Bain, and he had a fiduciary responsibility to them to invest it with the best return. President Obama, on the other hand, had the federal government's power to borrow and to tax (and to regulate the competing companies). It's a different situation. Nor did the former Bain Capital employees explain what has happened to them since they were laid off. Maybe they found other jobs doing things that create more value. Maybe the GM worker would have, too, if the auto bailout had not happened.