THE ELEVATOR SPEECH
NEW YORK TIMES
Obama has been reactive. He has been defined by the various negotiating positions he has taken in his confrontations with Congress. He’s used a more partisan political style to mask his small-bore policy substance. It’s not clear what he is passionate to do if he is elected for another four years. The Democratic convention is his best chance to offer an elevator speech, to define America’s most pressing challenge and how he plans to address it. ... I wish he’d rise above the petty tactical considerations that have shrunk him over the past two years. I wish he’d finally define what he stands for. A liberal populist? A Clintonian moderate? At some point, you have to choose. Four years ago, Obama said we could no longer postpone tackling the big problems. But now he seems driven by a fear of defeat. His proposals seem bite-size. If Obama can’t tell us the big policy thing he wants to do, he doesn’t deserve a second term.
THEY'RE NOT WHAT THEY USED TO BE
NEW YORK TIMES
One ought not get too misty-eyed about the old-style conventions, with their handful of power brokers pulling the strings. The convention system gave us Franklin Roosevelt — and also Herbert Hoover. The primary system has also given us our share of good presidents (Ronald Reagan) and bad ones (George W. Bush). On the other hand, old-style conventions, for all their flaws, demanded compromise that is essential for governing. Nor were the party bosses willing to throw their weight behind candidates who were too far outside the mainstream. The primary system has allowed the two parties to be captured by their more extreme elements. Compromise is now a dirty word. Centrism is for losers. Conventions now enforce the views of the hard-liners.
YOUR TURN, MR. PRESIDENT
The truth is that for all the action-packed, content-free verbiage employed to describe it, the contest between Obama and Romney has been remarkably static. Most polls have the race within the margin of error. Obama has a somewhat easier path to a majority in the Electoral College, but Romney and his allies have an advantage in campaign funds. For all the effort and money the two camps have spent trying to “define” the opponent, Obama and Romney stubbornly retain the same identities they’ve had all along. Neither is going to change, or be changed, into someone else. I hate to be blunt, but: Deal with it.
Embedded in this convention mission are numerous tasks. One is defending the achievements of the first term. Despite the difficulty of answering the are-you-better-off question in the midst of a sluggish recovery, Mr. Obama needs to explain how his actions eased the economic crisis and took on long-standing challenges such as extending health-care coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. At the same time, Mr. Obama must explain why he was unable to fulfill his promise to overcome the “broken politics in Washington.” ... At key moments of his presidency, Mr. Obama ducked the duty to lead in forging bipartisan solutions to the nation’s biggest problems. Seeking reelection, he needs to explain to voters fed up with Washington gridlock and bickering why they should expect the next four years to be different from the last, and why they should be confident he will step up to the task.
THE CHARLOTTE DEMOCRATS
WALL STREET JOURNAL
Democrats of the Obama era are united by cultural liberalism, but above all else they agree on the goal of expanding the reach of government. The Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist idea shop of the Clinton years, is moribund. The vanguard of ideas for the Obama White House is the Center for American Progress, which churns out proposals for government to mediate every sphere of economic life. ...The same priorities prevail, by the way, in the rare states where Democrats still dominate. While a wave of GOP Governors elected in 2010 have been reforming government, Democrats in Illinois, Maryland, Connecticut and California are bent on protecting every corner of government they can. The first three have raised taxes enormously, and Jerry Brown is desperate to get voter approval in November so he can raise the top income-tax rate in California to 13.3%.