Obama's rhetoric is clever but no game changer

US President Barack Obama pauses during his nomination acceptance speech at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012

"Four more years," they chanted as he walked on stage. But he began slowly.

It was as though the president had deliberately clipped his own wings, refused to soar too much, offering little inspirational rhetoric that could be mocked by his opponents.

The first half of his speech was no more than workmanlike, but it stressed the idea that this election was a choice between two very different Americas: "Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known."

He didn't quite offer blood, toil, tears and sweat, but he suggested this wouldn't be easy.

There was a promise of a set of new economic goals if he won again, but no detail on how they would be achieved.


There wasn't much to satisfy those who ask what exactly President Obama's second term would look like - not at least in concrete terms. This was a speech about values.

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The President unleashed him self, just a little... and the speech did get better”

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"If you reject the notion that this nation's promise is reserved for the few, your voice must be heard in this election. If you reject the notion that our government is forever beholden to the highest bidder, you need to stand up in this election."

He mocked his opponent Mitt Romney:

"You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can't visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally."

He also claimed Mr Romney and the Republicans had one main policy: "All they have to offer is the same prescriptions 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."

Despite some good passages like that one, the speech was frankly, rather flat at this point.

But then Mr Obama started cooking. This was the turning point:

"We don't think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don't think the government is the source of all of our problems - (cheers, applause) - any more than our welfare recipients or corporations or unions or immigrants or gays or any other group we're told to blame for our troubles."

Long, hard slog

The president unleashed himself, just a little. I had been wondering how he would cope with "hope and change".

I thought there might be an electric moment, admitting people's disappointment, a moment of self-revelation and humility.

People cheer after President Barack Obama accepted the nomination for president during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina President Obama said the election was not about him, but about the American people

There wasn't, but the speech did get better.

He had a clever rhetorical device - the American people were the change; they inspired him with hope.

"I have never been more hopeful about America - not because I think I have all the answers, not because I'm naive about the magnitude of our challenges. I'm hopeful because of you."

Inside the hall, they loved it. That was almost a given.

After the ovation they played Bruce Springsteen's We Take Care of Our Own, a brilliant, bitter, ironic take on American patriotism.

It asks, without spelling it out, why love of country does not always include caring for the people who make up the country.

It neatly echoes the values Mr Obama had been talking about. The key question is how this speech will go down with people who voted for him last time, but feel let down now.

He certainly presented a clear picture of what he saw as Mitt Romney's faults, his experience and their different visions.

But this was no game changer. It suggests the election campaign, like improvement in the economy, will be a long hard slog.

UPDATE: Unemployment numbers

Unemployment has "edged down" to 8.1% in the US. There were those who said in advance that today's figures were more important for November's election than anything that happened at the party conventions.

They are either "further evidence that the US economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression", or evidence of a "weak economy and the 43rd straight month of unemployment above 8%".

You won't be surprised to know the first is the White House's take, and the second, that of the Romney campaign.

Both seem to be true - it is a question of a glass half-empty or half-full.

These figures are pretty so-so, and unlikely to change people's general impression of the economy. The drop in unemployment is because fewer people are actively looking for work.

The increase in employment was 96,000 jobs in August, lower than some expected. The number of unemployed, 12.5 million, hasn't changed much.

And you have to remember the figures are often revised - indeed, those for the two previous months have been - fewer jobs were created than reported at the time.

Some economists worried by this data because it seems to confirm the picture of a recovery that is very slow, although at least not going in the wrong direction.

Both Mr Obama and Mr Romney will be out on the stump today, and I'll be looking for new ideas from either of them to get the job market moving.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell North America editor

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  • Comment number 424.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    ref #420
    9 Minutes ago
    #416 Kirin,there's absolutely nothing grass roots about the Koch Brothers financing of a so called spontaneous movement.
    It's calculated and cynical and it exploits naive people.
    Except the Kochs do not control the Tea Party movement, but they should be complimented for their support of the people of WI in the Walker recall by unions intrests

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    Truly child, you have no concept of what socialism actually is.
    Tis something so very different from what is practised in the USA that you would be unable to recognise it.
    Kirin, is it safe to assume that peanuts thrown at a black person constitutes acceptable behaviour...?

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Obama can only do so much. My fellow Americans (or "Merkans" in George Bush's speak) must step up to the plate. Why did Elvis Presley's unwashed pants and stained underwear not garner an acceptable bid? We are waiting for the answer to "was there water on Mars" Give peace a chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    #416 Kirin,there's absolutely nothing grass roots about the Koch Brothers financing of a so called spontaneous movement.
    It's calculated and cynical and it exploits naive people.

    JD it's about 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down.......do you seriously expect a rapid response from someone who thinks the Ipcress File is still cutting edge?

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    I have just discovered Ayn Rand, I missed it before, wasting time with Shakespeare, Founding Fathers, etc. Why would Republicans go for selfishness, vanity and guilt-free exploitation?

    Oh, yeah, I get it. It justifies their platform of guilt-free exploitation of the non-rich by the plutocrats. Now if only they can delude people into voting against their own interests....

  • Comment number 418.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    368. Chryses I really must agree with you, as a historian, that calling Randian Republicans "feudal" is extremely inaccurate. They are more like Roman exploiters, squeezing everything out of occupied provinces, and oppressing local dissenters, especially religious ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    ref #400 Billythefirst
    8th September 2012 - 20:49
    Curt, you're absolutely right. The Republican/Teaparty lunatic fringe

    There is nothing lunatic about wanting smaller goverment
    Both the Republican and the grassroot tea party are well informed, and unlike another group committed no crimes in their protests, showed no racism or anti-semtism and did not try to blow up a bridge

  • Comment number 415.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Well I am at a loss, didn't we all live true the Republican surge of 2010? To hear people place the full blame of the economy on Obama is sickening.
    My Republicans have made it clear no assistance to solve our problem so I must ask "Where in all this did they put "Country First".
    As a republican I must say Obama has a center of his principles. Mitt sways with the wind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    AndreaNY@404"So, again, why go after the taxpayers who ARE..."

    Only the American right, Andrea, is so totally self-absorbed that it can't even imagine a narrative where somebody isn't "going after" somebody else. It's their thrid-grade, school yard mentality at work: us against them; grab all you can for yourself or the other guy will get some; cooperation's for losers....

    It's sad really.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    In 08, I had Obamarama. I know Americans dont get socialism so Obamacare doesnt appeal to all. But what has Obama done but that? Lied on the economy, his bailouts were disastrous, Gauntanamo and in terms of foreign policy, ye he is trying his best to not be dragged into another war by the MI complex. Still rather stick with the liar I know than the liar I dont. Obama Romney are both bought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    278 Billythefirst

    ‘If not, then into the receptacle of pomposity it goes.’

    Billy, surely you meant to add ‘LOL’?

  • Comment number 410.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    When all was said and done, he didn't really have anything to boast about. How could he explain the trail of broken campaign promises he has left in his wake? And naturally, his audience hung on every word - how could they not?

  • Comment number 408.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    Andrea do you earn over $250,000 or Under
    are you smart or not
    can you hear me
    or you tun deaf

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.


    ...look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by ppl who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart ppl out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something—there are a whole bunch of hardworking ppl out there.

    Who's so smart?

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Andrea what specifically are you talking about

    is it bush tax cuts expiring for those earning over $250,000 in 2013


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