Cutting Edge: New ideas / Sharp opinions
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Jonathan Cohn at TNR.com found the prime-time Democratic convention speeches by Julian Castro and Michelle Obama "full of warm, endearing personal details ... but [even] these personal stories had a clear and -- in the case of the first lady's speech -- surprisingly edgy political message.
"Politicians from both parties talk about uniting America. But, to simplify things a bit, this election is really a debate about how to divide America. The Republicans are trying to drive a wedge between the middle class and the poor. The Democrats are trying to drive a wedge between the rich and the middle class.
"The Republicans talk about 'makers' and 'takers' -- about virtuous, hard-working people who pay taxes that the government ... sends to the frequently undeserving poor. ... In the Democratic narrative ... it's the rich taking advantage of everybody else -- and seeking to destroy public services, like Social Security or public schools, on which the vast majority of Americans rely."
One of Bill Clinton's sharpest points in his defense of President Barack Obama at the Democratic convention: "Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: Arithmetic. ... [If Mitt Romney is elected, Republicans will] just do what they've been doing for more than 30 years. They'll go in and cut the taxes way more than they cut spending, especially with that big defense increase, and they'll just explode the debt and weaken the economy. And they'll destroy the federal government's ability to help you by letting interest gobble up all your tax payments."
David Brooks of The New York Times on President Obama's convention speech: "There were parts of his speech that raised the old expectations. I liked the emphasis he put not on himself but on the word 'you' -- the idea that change comes organically from the bottom up. I liked his extraordinary self-awareness, his willingness to admit that often life on the campaign trail requires candidates to do silly things. I liked the sense of citizenship that pervaded his address, the sense of mutual obligation. But what I was mostly looking for were big proposals, big as health care was four years ago. I had spent the three previous days watching more than 80 convention speeches without hearing a single major policy proposal in any of them."
Erick Erickson at RedState has a different take on the president's speech: "It was boring. It was unoriginal. And it was filled with promises when he hasn't kept his past promises. Clint Eastwood's empty chair could have given a better speech than what Barack Obama offered up. And to think he wanted to give that in a stadium."
At the Democratic convention, Rep. John Lewis recalled his first visit to Charlotte, N.C., during the first Freedom Ride in 1961 when another black rider got jailed for trying to get a shoe shine in a whites-only waiting room. At the next stop, Mr. Lewis was beat bloody by a mob when he entered a white waiting room. A central issue of the movement was securing voting rights, about which Mr. Lewis said:
"My dear friends, your vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful, nonviolent tool we have to create a more perfect union. Not too long ago, people stood in unmovable lines. They had to pass a so-called literacy test, pay a poll tax. On one occasion, a man was asked to count the number of bubbles in a bar of soap. On another occasion, one was asked to count the jelly beans in a jar -- all to keep them from casting their ballots.
"Today it is unbelievable that there are Republican officials still trying to stop some people from voting. They are changing the rules, cutting polling hours and imposing requirements intended to suppress the vote. The Republican leader in the Pennsylvania House [Rep. Mike Turzai of Bradford Woods] even bragged that his state's new voter ID law is 'gonna allow Gov. Romney to win the state.' That's not right. That's not fair. That's not just."
First Published September 9, 2012 12:00 am