J. KARL MILLER: Democrats bring great speakers to convention but not new ideas

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:50 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 12, 2012

COLUMBIA — In keeping with my humble efforts to present a fair and balanced picture of the conventions, it is imperative that I provide a similar opinion piece on the Democrats' oratorical efforts to provide other than their party faithful a motive for returning President Barack Obama to Washington for a second term. As the resident evil, right-wing contributor, my outlook will doubtless differ from the contributing consensus.

First, I have to admit the convention was well organized and mapped out, as the Democrats have a knack for this sort of thing. Not having to deal with the inclement weather experienced by the Republicans was a plus — but one has a notion they would have plowed ahead, undaunted by outside interference.

The first day's speakers were exceptionally articulate and well schooled on their subjects. Particularly impressive was Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, who introduced the party platform after emerging from being sent to the woodshed for "time out" for his intemperate praise of Bain Capital. The platform specifics calls for higher taxes on the wealthy while backing same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

As did the Republicans with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the Democrats showcased a rising Hispanic population by entrusting the keynote address to San Antonio's Mayor Julian Castro. Mayor Castro, a handsome, charismatic speaker, highlighted his immigrant grandmother's example of encouragement that both he and his brother could take advantage of America's promise, graduate from law school and succeed in politics.

However, Michelle Obama was the undisputed star of the day one speakers. Poised and articulate, the first lady exhibited a professional and comfortable rapport with the audience, who were caught up in the enthusiasm. She described her life with the president, their shared trials, tribulations and successes. She attempted and was inordinately successful in normalizing an individual who has been anointed a "Rock Star" by his admirers — a status with which he is not uncomfortable.

Day two's speakers were but a tune-up to the Democrats' heavy artillery, in the person of the immensely popular former President Bill Clinton, called into action to reach out beyond the party's base to cater to independents and perhaps snare some Republicans. His performance was vintage Clinton — scheduled for 24 minutes, it went on for 48 and was the barnburner everyone expected.

Clinton, hands down the most astute politician of today and one who finds a teleprompter too confining, employed his folksy, breezy, I'm-just-a-country-boy style to promote President Obama as the only choice come November. He is a master of timing and delivery — a memorable moment came when he opined that no president (obviously implying not even Bill Clinton himself) could have cleaned up the disaster Obama inherited in only four years.

There was a major embarrassment on this second day, one that could not be swept under the rug. This totally unforced error occurred when it came to light that the Democratic Party platform had dropped the word "God" and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Party grown-ups, realizing the boneheadedness of alienating Christian and Jewish voters, moved quickly to edit the platform. Nevertheless, when the attempt to attain the two-thirds majority required to ratify the change was made by voice vote, it was obvious the nays equaled the ayes. After multiple retries failed to record consensus, the chair arbitrarily decided the "ayes have it" to the vocal chagrin of the dissenters.

I was disappointed in two of the convention speakers — both from the state of Massachusetts. First, Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senate candidate who is considered a rising star by the party, offered a bitter, partisan attack more typical of a party hack than by one with a bright future.

The next, Sen. John Kerry, wowed the delegates with a fiery denunciation of former Gov. Mitt Romney, attacking his policies as well as his perceived ignorance of foreign affairs. However, as a Vietnam veteran who was personally and collectively accused of condoning atrocities while commanding Marines by this same John Kerry in false testimony to Congress, I was turned off by his hypocrisy in bashing Romney for failing to offer praise for those in harm's way.

The closing speeches by Vice President Joe Biden and the acceptance of the nomination by President Obama ranged from adequate to good, suffering by comparison to the previous night's featured speaker. Let's face it, former President Clinton is a tough act to follow.

As was the case for the Republican speakers, the Democrat's speeches offered up a veritable gold mine for professional fact checkers (nitpickers) who are experts at collecting the chaff and discarding the wheat. The easiest source for pay dirt was in the address of Vice President Joe Biden, who has a history of trading fact for fancy.

And, similar to Gov. Romney, President Obama offered very little in new ideas, reiterating instead his pitch for education, renewable energy, raising revenue through taxing the wealthy and extolling the role of government. Several respected pundits from both ends of the spectrum described the visions offered by both candidates as "vague."

Perchance this will be the first election since Kennedy/Nixon in 1960 in which the debates actually play a defining role in deciding the winner. Most polls are leaning to a "too close to call" prediction.

As a card-carrying conservative, I see the choice as one of growing the economy or growing government. By any standard, the state of the economy is best described as stagnant. Furthering growth of government will result in more entitlements — at taxpayers' expense.

J. Karl Miller retired as a colonel in the Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via email at Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Bob Brandon September 12, 2012 | 8:00 a.m.

The Good Colonel: praising with faint damns.

(Report Comment)
Christopher Foote September 12, 2012 | 10:16 a.m.

I understand that many on the right, including Mr. Miller, hold that Mr. Obama has significantly increased the size of government through new spending initiatives. Hence his endorsement of Romney with, "As a card-carrying conservative, I see the choice as one of growing the economy or growing government."
I don't think that the facts support this hypothesis that Obama (and by extension) the Democrats are big spenders and that the Republicans are not. If you look at annualized growth in Real per capita government spending (that is how much the government spends per person adjusted for inflation), the results indicate just the opposite:
I doubt the data will change Mr. Miller's endorsement. I would mention that the large increase in per capita spending under Bush II was championed by the current Republican VP nominee, Paul Ryan. In the House, he voted yes on every major spending initiative during the Bush era. Moreover, Mr. Romney's economic team is led by R. Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw who also led Mr. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. Why does Mr. Miller think that team Romney will put into place economic policies that were different from Mr. Bush's if the same economic advisors who advised Bush are advising Romney? In fact, Romney's Budget contains the exact same policies as Bush's, namely regressive tax cuts and deficit spending well into the future.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman September 12, 2012 | 3:29 p.m.

Hey Karl - We agreed on this one. YEA for us!

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