Is Obama the way forward? Not after this speech, say critics. Photo credit: Jared Soares for PBS NewsHour
President Barack Obama made the case for a second term on the final night of the Democratic National Convention Thursday, explaining to the 20,000 assembled Democratic faithful and the voters at home they face the “clearest choice of any time in a generation” “between two different paths for America” this November.
His path, he said in accepting the Democratic nomination, offers more for more Americans than that of his rival, Republican candidate Mitt Romney; he attacked the Republicans for criticizing his policies and the current state of America, without offering any real solutions, a message that may play well with Americans frustrated with partisan Washington politics. At the same time, however, Obama declined to offer any specific policies he hopes to accomplish in his second term, a problem that man critics highlighted.
“You didn’t elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear,” he said. “You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.”
But Obama wasn’t only battling the specter of Romney and the Republican Party in the Time Warner Arena – he was also battling the ghost of his transformative 2008 campaign. His first four years are being cast as a disappointment, both by the Republican Party and by frustrated observers and Democrats who expected more from the “hope and change” candidate. Though Obama has won several major legislative victories while in office, as well as accomplishing what his predecessor couldn’t – the killing of Osama bin Laden – voters remain preoccupied with the sluggish economy.
So, did he seal the deal? Maybe not.
A ‘pedestrian and overconfident’ speech
“Let’s be blunt. Barack Obama gave a dull and pedestrian speech tonight, with nary an interesting thematic device, policy detail, or even one turn of phrase,” declared Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. Acknowledging that the crowd didn’t agree with his take, Tomasky nonetheless continued, “This was the rhetorical equivalent, forgive the football metaphor, of running out the clock: Obama clearly thinks he’s ahead and just doesn’t need to make mistakes.” Tomasky deplored the lack of specifics, and complained that the attempt to re-inspire his followers failed, that the speech felt “very superficial” and lost the momentum gathered over the last two nights. The Obama faithful might have been happy, but swing voters will be less than impressed: “He’s going to have to do much better than this.”
Not a ‘game-changing’ speech
Obama’s lackluster speech revealed to Douglas Schoen at Fox News one thing: That Obama is no Bill Clinton – his speech lacked the rousing spirit of the former president’s words the night before. “[I]f anyone believes that President Obama’s speech was a game changer, they are sadly mistaken. There was nothing aspirational, there was nothing really future-oriented in the president’s steadfast defense of the path he’s been pursuing for the past four years.”
Twitter reacts: Obama’s speech drove more than 52,000 tweets per minute Thursday night, a new record. Here are some of them.
An ‘anti-climactic’ speech
Everything was going so well at the DNC, wrote Molly Ball at the left-leaning The Atlantic, “And then President Obama got up and just sort of didn’t do anything special.” It was flat, lifeless, and lacked the inspiration that Democrats and needed. Somewhat at odds with much of the criticism, she said, “If anything, the speech seemed engineered as a series of defensive moves. Mitt Romney and the Republicans gave speeches conspicuously light on policy, so Obama gave a speech weighted down with it. They ridiculed his cult of personality, so he took himself almost entirely out of the picture. They said he was out of touch, so he strained to descend to earth and focus on minutiae.”