When President Barack Obama and the Democrats take the stage in Charlotte tonight, they’ll have an opportunity to show that the only thing the Republicans “built” in Tampa was a weak procession of resentful also-rans, offering falsehoods and vague assurances against a background of family album anecdotes. Oh, and Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, because that’s what will bring job growth.
Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s acceptance speech has already been pegged by numerous sources, from the major news networks to the New York Times and even the blogosphere, as conflicting with what is generally referred to as “reality.” From the specious claims about Obama “doing absolutely nothing” with the report of the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission (Ryan opposed several of the commission’s recommendations), to blaming the president for the downgrade of America’s credit rating (the downgrade was the result of Ryan and House Republicans blocking a decision from being made because of a protracted battle for spending cuts). There’s also that faithful, out-of-context chestnut that was unofficially incorporated into the theme of the convention itself, and has become the GOP’s main arrow in its quiver against the president: “You didn’t build that.”
Here’s the actual quote in its entirety:
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.
Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”
Even an observer with only the most tenuous grasp of political savvy can see that line was not meant as an insult to business owners, but as a commentary on the way Americans are intrinsically connected, as much through infrastructure as through good, old-fashioned idealism.
But the GOP, including Ryan and presidential candidate Mitt Romney, can’t allow that kind of commonsense thinking, because the only other options would be to run on the party’s accomplishments since the 2010 midterm elections during which they recaptured the House of Representatives and expanded their minority in the Senate. Just a few of which include … never mind, there aren’t any.
The ugly truth of the past four years is not that “hope” and “change” haven’t transpired because of the insidious policies of Darth Obama, but because Republicans have done everything in their power to discredit a president who ran on a platform of reuniting the country after the most divisive presidential term in recent memory, simply by holding their hands up and saying “nah-uh, Mr. President.”
Or, to put it in terms more relatable to that all-important youth demographic: the GOP has done more blocking than a jilted ex on Facebook.
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in 2010 that “our top political priority over the next two years should be to make Barack Obama a one-term president.”
After the election, according to Time magazine’s senior national correspondent, Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) summed the strategy up thus: “If Obama was for it, we had to be against it.”
Even Standard & Poor’s commented on the forced stalemate when it lowered America’s credit rating, writing “the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed. The statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.”
And while Republicans were quick to criticize the president’s night out with the first lady in 2009, during which he traveled to New York on the eve of General Motors filing for bankruptcy, Romney later voted against the bailout for the auto industry.
And the General Motors plant that closed in Janesville on Obama’s watch? The decision to close the plant was made several months after Obama’s 2008 speech that Ryan alluded to.
Which brings us to the elephant in the room: jobs.
Romney is correct when he says what this country needs is “jobs, lots of jobs.”
So it is a mystery as to why Republicans voted in 2011 against a $447 billion jobs package that, according to the New York Times, would have included tax cuts, including payroll taxes, totaling $250 billion, $60 billion to extended unemployment benefits and $140 billion to benefit education, transportation projects and public workers.
They brought the hammer down again just two months ago, when they blocked the Bring Jobs Home Act, which would have provided a 20 percent tax break for the costs of moving jobs back to the U.S., and would deny expense deductions to companies associated with the cost of outsourcing.
Romney and Ryan have been billed as “America’s Comeback Team” by those to the right of the aisle. “America needs a turnaround,” Ryan said.
What America needs is to keep moving forward with legislators who truly care about the state of the country, as opposed to legislators who only want to score political points, who still have not, despite having control of the House, passed any significant, productive legislation.
Perhaps Obama was right when he said one of his weaknesses was that he didn’t communicate well enough. Charlotte is a good opportunity to change that, and to come to terms with the fact that all the “communicating” in the world can’t sway the party of “no.” The time has come to take the gloves off, Mr. President, and tell the Republicans to “get off my lawn,” to borrow a page from the now-sainted Mr. Eastwood.