Obama: 'Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!'
Continuing the progressive theme from the first two nights, the last night of the Democratic National Convention was heavy on auto industry turnaround, saving Medicare, and protecting the middle class from rapacious Republicans who want to liquidate society to funnel more money to the rich.
Bill Clinton gave the whole convention its centerpiece, with his devastating point-by-point takedown of the Republican program. All Obama and Biden had to do was allude to it to get a rise out of the audience.
Neither Biden nor Obama rose to the heights of Clinton or Obama.
That's partly because, by the time we got to the last night, it seemed like there was nothing left to say.
(See Clinton on the Romney-Ryan "double down on trickle down" plan.)
Obama got in a few shots of his own, though:
"They want your vote, but they don't want you to know their plan," Obama said.
And that's because all they have to offer is the same prescription they've had for the last 30 years:
"Have a surplus? Try a tax cut."
"Deficit too high? Try another."
"Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!"
Obama added a few other jabs as well, pointing out that his opponents were "new" to foreign policy:
After all, you don't call Russia our number one enemy -- and not Al Qaeda -- unless you're still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can't visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.
Unlike Deval Patrick, who concluded his barn-burner defense of Democratic values and the middle class with a school-turnaround story featuring Race to the Top and a school that summarily fired half its teachers (see my commentary on Patrick's speech and Orchard Gardens Elementary School) Obama steered clear of Race to the Top altogether.
This progressive move on education was noticed on Twitter by Diane Ravitch -- who led the No Child Left Behind initiative for President Bush, before she did a 180 to promote broad investment in public education -- and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
"Good news: President didn't mention Race to Top. No decline talk. Small step forward," Ravitch tweeted.
Race to the Top, which Ravitch has called "No Child Left Behind on Steroids" aims to create competition among schools, focusing relentlessly on test scores, firing teachers and principles when scores are low, and, instead of a broad investment in public education, creates a duke-it-out model where some kids and their schools are winners while others lose big. Ayn Rand and Paul Ryan might approve.
"Just maybe we are seeing a change...comments on firing teachers and Race to the Top are inconsistent," Weingarten tweeted.
These comments on firing teachers came in a section of Obama's speech where he also stood up against outsourcing jobs and deregulating Wall Street (other places where he has not carried the progressive flag):
I don't believe that firing teachers or kicking students off financial aid will grow the economy, or help us compete with the scientists and engineers coming out of China. After all that we've been through, I don't believe that rolling back regulations on Wall Street will help the small businesswoman expand, or the laid-off construction worker keep his home. We've been there, we've tried that, and we're not going back. We're moving forward.
With the convention's emphasis on the auto turnaround -- let's face it, it beats the hell out of the Wall Street bailout -- and with the Democrats defending the safety net, attacking corporate tax breaks, and sticking up for the working class, I am inclined to agree with Ravitch and Weingarten that maybe, just maybe, we are seeing a new, hopeful direction.
As Obama left the stage to Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own," even David Brooks agreed that the DNC buried the RNC.
If the Democrats were successful in hitting back hard against the Republicans, it was because they placed themselves solidly on the side of labor, the New Deal, public investment in education, justice for immigrants, gay rights, and women's rights.
As Obama put it, "We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system ... But we also believe in something called citizenship."
It was a winning message. The next few weeks, and the next few years, will show us what it really means.