New York Times political reporter Michael Shear has a list of advice for the Obama campaign’s upcoming nominating convention. Shear may think he is helping the Obama team, but he’s buried a landmine in his otherwise unremarkable list of helpful hints.
Shear tells the Obama camp the five things they need to do in Charlotte this week. These include such penetrating insights as “attack Romney” (No. 1) and “avoid mistakes” (No. 3), as well as reminders to fire up the base and reassure the public on the economic front. But his fifth piece of advice could not possibly play into Romney’s hands any better. Here is Shear’s final suggestion:
5. RECAPTURE HOPE In his acceptance speech four years ago, Mr. Obama promised a new kind of politics, shorn of red-blue partisanship. As the cameras panned across the huge crowd, the faces revealed an eagerness for something new and different.
But Mr. Obama’s presidency has hardly met that expectation. His White House has gotten bogged down in an even deeper partisan morass that has ground political progress to a halt.
One three-day convention cannot change all that. But Democrats are going to try to use the speeches — capped off by Mr. Obama’s on Thursday night — to remind supporters of the passion and promise they felt four years ago.
If Mr. Obama can recapture some of that sense of “hope and change,” he may begin the final nine weeks of the campaign in a better spot.
Ludicrous. Without a doubt the most effective part of the Republican National Convention’s message, especially as expressed by Romney, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio, among others, was the idea that Obama was all lofty promises and excitement but no substance—that it was easy and understandable to get caught up in the moment the first time around, but now everyone knows better and it’s time to expect results.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family,” Romney said in his convention speech. It was a powerful critique of the president in part because of its very modesty—something difficult to pull off when you’re addressing thousands at a convention nominating you to be the leader of the free world.
The criticism will also stick to Obama, most likely, since it goes to the heart of the country’s disappointment with its president—a man for whom they had high hopes. John Dickerson at Slate put it this way:
The most devastating attack on Obama was his claim that there’s “something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.” That line, plus the image Paul Ryan’s speech conjured the night before of a young Obama voter staring up at the ceiling, will live past the convention.
And they seem to have done so. The country wants optimism, but not of the vapid “hope and change” kind that Obama’s 2008 convention—with its Greek columns and promises to repel the ocean tides—offered voters. If Obama tries to recreate that atmosphere of stuffy narcissism and sanctimonious messianic fervor, he will look and sound ridiculous, callous, stubborn, and overwhelmed.
Republicans have been told repeatedly that they cannot successfully attack Obama as an unknown, mysterious force moved by ghosts of his past, like Rashid Khalidi and Bill Ayers, because the president now has a record in office and is more or less known to the American people. But the same goes for Obama. He cannot be the sudden and exciting cipher of 2007-08. And he probably won’t try. A president running for reelection has to defend his record. The Obama campaign may want Americans to forget the last four years, but they probably know better than to expect that.