In his speech at the closing night of the Republican National Convention on Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused his rival President Barack Obama of "throwing allies like Israel under the bus," and of failure in dealing with Iran's nuclear program.
Six long years after vowing to get to the Oval Office, the former Massachusetts Governor stood on stage on Thursday night (with balloons in colors of the American flag waiting to be released), and vowed to lead America to a brighter future. The major theme of his speech resonated with Ronald Reagan's debate in the 1980s with the famous question: "Are you better off today?"
While the blogosphere will probably go for days and days trending the highly unusual speech of Clint Eastwood, some will scratch their heads, asking whether candidate Romney actually promise anything new.
Most of the themes he raised in his speech (greeted enthusiastically by the crowd, except for the hecklers from the pacifist "Code pink") he had mentioned over and over many times before at the campaign events and in quite scarce interviews. His plea was to the disaffected Obama voters ("If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn't you feel that way now that he's President Obama? You know 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.")
Then came the highly dubious claim (though fully supported by Clint Eastwood) that Obama failed because of a lack of business experience ("without the basic qualification that most Americans have.... he had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs, to him, are about government") - dubious, since Americans haven't voted many businessmen into the Oval office.
While Romney clearly identified himself with Reagan (who was paid tribute to by video at the beginning of the last night of the convention and was mentioned several times in Newt Gingrich's speech), Jimmy Carter became the ultimate loser symbol. Romney spoke of his own business success, concluding that "it's the genius of the American free enterprise system to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that's dedicated to creating tomorrow's prosperity, not trying to redistribute today's.
That's why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: You're better off than you were four years ago. Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president."
America has been patient, Romney said. "Today the time has come for us to put the disappointments of the last four years behind us, to put aside the divisiveness and the recriminations, to forget about what might have been and to look ahead to what can be. Now is a time to restore the promise of America."
Romney accused Obama's policies of "crushing the middle class" and warned that his plan to raise taxes on small businesses (those earning over 250 thousand U.S. dollars) "won't add jobs: It would eliminate them." Romney then stressed he has a plan to create 12 million new jobs, and elaborated on a five-step plan in the speech.
The foreign policy part of the speech, as usual, offered little specifics about his plans in the Oval office. Quite astonishingly, he didn't mention Iraq or Afghanistan. He credited Obama with giving an order to kill Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, but he followed this immediately with accusations that he has failed in his dealing with Iran's nuclear program. "In his first TV interview as president, he said we should talk to Iran. We're still talking, and Iran's centrifuges are still spinning."
Romney also repeated his old metaphor of "throwing allies like Israel under the bus." "He abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments. But he's eager to give Russia's president, Putin, the flexibility he desires after the election. Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone."
If the goal of the convention was to humanize Mitt Romney - it somewhat succeeded. The part where Mr. Romney spoke about his family, as well as a short documentary screened earlier in the evening, was touching, as it always is when sympathizing spectators watch some photogenic family's photos showing babies and loving parents. It almost made some forget his current privileged status.
"My dad had been born in Mexico, and his family had to leave during the Mexican Revolution. I grew up with stories of his family being fed by the U.S. government as war refugees. My dad never made it through college, and he apprenticed as a lath and plaster carpenter. He had big dreams. He convinced my mom, a beautiful young actress, to give up Hollywood to marry him and move to Detroit. He led a great automobile company and became governor of the great state of Michigan," Romney said.
Taking about his parents' marriage, he said: "My mom and dad were true partners..... When my mom ran for the Senate, my dad was there for her every step of the way. I can still see her saying, in her beautiful voice, why should women have any less say than men about the great decisions facing our nation?" - and then he mentioned appointing women to his administration as Massachusetts Governor.
Referring to the much-lauded speech on Tuesday by his wife Ann, who chose to be a housewife and raise five sons, he said, "As America saw Tuesday night, Ann would have succeeded at anything she wanted to do."
Then came the faith question that received delicate preparation by speakers the night before: "We were Mormons, and growing up in Michigan, that might have seemed unusual or out of place, but I really don't remember it that way. My friends cared more about what sports teams we followed than what church we went to. My mom and dad gave their kids the greatest gift of all - the gift of unconditional love. They cared deeply about who we would be and much less about what we would do."
The convention was over with the call to join the candidate on the path to a brighter future, but the elections, with flip-flopping polls, are at their peak. Next week, Democrats will gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, trying to say the last word. Then there will be three presidential and one vice-presidential debate. Romney is well aware of that - and despite the balloons, the excitement and the cheering crowd – early on Friday morning he and his running mate Paul Ryan will hit the road to rally in Florida, and later on in Virginia.
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