BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE
A fair assessment of his convention speech would be not as strong as the one he gave four years ago, that prepared the path for his election as President. It was not a speech full of promises but instead Mr. Obama was careful at picking his words and rather than make promises he won’t be able to fulfill, he offered America a way forward. Those who expect the President to offer them a quick fix to America’s problems with his speech may have been disappointed; instead, Mr. Obama made the case for why America must keep the hope alive.
It was not a direct attack on Romney either, Mr. Obama wanted to speak directly to his support base and his aim was to tell people to give him more time to fix the current economic problems. The President is aware people are becoming impatient and demand action from his leadership so, the best he could do was to convince them that given few more years, America will begin to see positive results and a turnabout. It was rather an appeal to the nation for another four years in office.
The speech contained part of what we have heard in the past like healthcare including Medicaid and Medicare, defense and the Military, unemployment, the ongoing war in Afghanistan and his records on the economy. However, Mr. Obama targeted his speech to make clear to the American people the contrast between him and Mr. Romney. The goal was to present his vision and that of the Democratic Party, as a path which though, may be hard but will eventually lead to a profitable end.
He said “The truth is it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades.” “It will require common effort, shared responsibility and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.” The point is the President wants people to know this is not the first time America has been in crisis but with given time and support of the people, he would turn the situation around.
Mr. Obama did not fall short of mentioning his opposition’s agenda and in reference to the Republican Convention; he reiterated how in an effort to get people’s votes the speakers emphasized on America’s problems and the mistakes of his administration without offering a single solution to how they intend to fix the problem. In fact, when Mr. Romney was approached to offer his take on the impending speech by the President, he was rather confrontational and quick to respond that all he wants to hear from the President, is how he has fulfilled the promises he made in the past and not a speech about new promises.
Maybe it is necessary here to discuss some of the promises Obama made to the American people that has been kept and those he has failed to deliver. When he took office four years back, Mr. Obama promised to bring the troops home from Iraq which so far he has kept. He promised to hunt down the perpetrator of the 9/11 attack and on May 2, 2011 Bin Laden met his fate in Abbottabad Pakistan; Mr. Obama was instrumental in overturning the Military Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that now allows gays to serve openly in the Military, he promised to establish a credit card bill of rights and a regulation of the financial institutions which so far, he has delivered on.
One of Mr. Obama’s promises was to extend the Bush tax cut for low income families, he has delivered on that promise and currently, Republicans in the House are pushing him to extend same tax cut for wealthy Americans which he is refusing to do because it takes money from low income families. His plan on coming to the White House was to fix America’s healthcare system; this was one of his campaign promises and this year ObamaCare was passed and won the last stamp of approval from the U.S. Supreme Court though, Republicans including Mitt Romney have promised to repeal it.
Mr. Obama promised America he would end the use of torture on detainees kept in American prisons home and abroad so far, he has delivered on that promise. Not long ago he appointed a special adviser on women as part of his campaign promises to protect women’s rights and end violence against women. Also, America’s image abroad was at the lowest when Mr. Obama came to office, he promised to change the perception on what the nation stands for and barely a year in office, people began to see America positively, he was openly welcomed in the Arab nations including in Egypt when he visited to give what turned out to be a historical speech. Likewise, in Europe, Asia and Africa, people began to change their misconception about America created by the Bush era foreign policy.
As part of his promises to rebuild relations with other nations Mr. Obama, was able to sign a Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty with Russia, a nation that Mitt Romney dubbed America’s number one enemy. Due to the Moscow Treaty also known as START, the United States and Russia would reduce their number of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 warheads, about 30 percent lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the Moscow Treaty earlier signed in 2002 under the Bush administration.
The lists of the change under the Obama administration goes on and on but here are some areas where the President has failed. Part of his campaign promises was to close Guantanamo Bay in Cuba but so far, he has not been able to do that; however, he may have a strong argument that the delay was due to the political rivalry in Washington, national security foiled by Congressional politics and bureaucratic infighting. The responsibility lies not much on the Obama administration, but Congress which has thwarted President Obama’s plan to close the detention center, opened by the Bush administration in 2002.
Unemployment is another area where Mr. Obama has failed. While it is true that the Obama administration is not responsible for the job losses, the President is responsible for getting Americans back to work. Based on the job report released on September 7, 2012 by the Department of Labor, unemployment rate fell to 8.1 percent from 8.3 percent in July; that was partly because more people gave up looking for work and so far, the jobs created were low income retail jobs. The report also indicated that 41,000 fewer jobs were created in July and June lower than estimated and the economy has added just 139,000 jobs a month since the beginning of 2012, below the average of 153,000 gained in 2011.
Nonetheless, Mr. Obama can still argue that Republicans are responsible for the job losses due to their failure to pass the Job Act which he spearheaded and implemented, that Washington politics is responsible for not getting Americans back to work. This may become a difficult argument for the President to sell to the unemployed and those who believe the President did not prioritize or use the bailout funds properly to create jobs. The money he received from Congress was largely used to bail out banks and other financial institutions rather than channeling it towards programs that create jobs.
The President has not been able to deliver fully on immigration as promised; there are those who think he could have done more on the amnesty issue though, the President can still claim he was able to pass the Dream Act which allows those brought to American as children to have legal status in the country. He was also instrumental in making sure Arizona did not pass a law that could have made it easier to deport illegal immigrants, a move Republicans fought relentlessly to annul.
There is no doubt President Obama has his shortcomings; with his convention speech he made America to understand there are challenges ahead. Mr. Obama was careful not to make new promises but instead tried to convey the message of a way forward for the nation; a move to keep the hope alive and convince people that with enough time, he could turn the economy around. Whether the entire nation got the message and is willing to exercise such patience, remains unknown.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ a newly released Work of fiction. Follow on Twitter @san0670.