The Democratic convention in Charlotte, N.C., proved the old adage that everyone makes mistakes.
There were some big but understandable mistakes, such as the last-minute move of Obama's acceptance speech indoors, which sparked talk that the president couldn't fill the stadium. There were also a few embarrassing and less understandable miscues. For example, high-ranking party officials (notably including state party chairmen from California and South Carolina) seemed irresistibly drawn to comparing their opponents with Adolf Hitler's murderous Nazi Party.
The Democrats' platform committee also produced a document that expunged key pro-Israel language, just as party leaders were nervously reassuring Jews about Obama's support for Israel. That language, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, had to be reinserted, under pressure from party leaders and against the will of booing delegates. Also restored was the party platform's only mention of God Almighty. The final act of this farce came afterThe Washington Examiner reported that Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz fabricated a statement by Israel's ambassador to the U.S. She went on national television and claimed she had been misquoted by TheExaminer, only to be widely ridiculed when The Examiner posted the audio of her remarks showing she had said exactly what she denied saying.
But the biggest blunder of all was to schedule the convention during the first week of September, meaning that it would be immediately followed by the Labor Department's monthly jobs report. This created the obvious risk that a negative report would trump all of the positive spin served up at the convention.
And so it happened that the government offered a gloomy employment picture only a day after Vice President Biden proclaimed, "America is coming back, and we're not going back!" Far fewer jobs (96,000) were created than expected, and more manufacturing jobs (15,000) disappeared. After so much hoopla about Detroit's Obama-led recovery, it was revealed that the auto industry actually lost 7,500 jobs.
The official jobless rate remained stuck above 8 percent, falling just slightly because nearly 400,000 Americans stopped looking for work. The labor force participation rate dropped from 63.7 percent to 63.5 percent. Those with jobs saw their earnings rise at the slowest pace on record.
The administration and its allies prefer to blame Republican obstructionism for this, but Bill Clinton reminded Democrats on Wednesday that even a president reviled by the Right can still work with conservatives -- if he chooses.
Obama's problem is entirely of his own making. He has spent four years overpromising and underdelivering.
The word "stimulus" never appeared once in any of the convention speeches. But when the stimulus passed, Obama's economists promised that unemployment would drop below 6 percent by August 2012. In 2010, the Obama team heralded "Recovery Summer," with Biden announcing: "We have turned this economy around." Instead, the jobless rate has stayed above 8 percent for 43 consecutive months, a modern record.
The president struggled in his speech on Thursday to cite any progress whatsoever. He touted the "thousands of Americans [who] have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries" -- never mind that theiremployment cost taxpayers billions of dollars and thatthousands of them have already been laid off. It's worth remembering that Obama promised five million green energy jobs.
Even in discussing the "workers in Detroit and Toledo" whose jobs he preserved in the auto bailout, Obama conveniently failed to mention that the auto industry may yet need a second bailout.
Judging by his speech, Obama's second-term agenda would be just more of the same. More taxpayer-funded stimulus. Hiring 100,000 more teachers -- whose unions, incidentally, happen to be ardent Obama supporters.
At one point in his speech, Obama mentioned an auto worker "who won the lottery after his plant almost closed, but kept coming to work every day ... he gives me hope."
Four years into his presidency, an anecdote about someone winning the lottery was the most hopeful story Obama could offer.