- Kuwait Times Extra
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina: US President Barack Obama implored Americans to grant him a second term, warning that Republican rival Mitt Romney would kill the economic recovery and is not cut out to lead. Four years after he claimed power on a euphoric tide of hope, Obama bluntly warned that the United States faced its most stark political crossroads in a generation, and insisted he never said change would be quick or easy. “The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place and I’m asking you to choose that future,” he said, warning that his Republican rival would gut the middle class and return to “blustering and blundering” abroad. Obama proclaimed that with him, Americans could stay with “leadership that has been tested and proven”.
Sketching an agenda to create millions of jobs, cut $4 trillion from the deficit and revolutionize energy policy, Obama refused to abandon the hope of 2008, saying: “Know this, America: our problems can be solved”. The president spoke at the Democratic National Convention, exactly two months before the election, hoping to break open a knife-edge race with Romney, who paints him as out of ideas to nurse the sickly economy back to health. The speech drew frenzied applause from supporters, but the flashbulbs and fanfare could soon be forgotten, as a new jobs report released yesterday showed still-tepid economic growth nearly four years after Obama took office.
The 51-year-old president directly confronted the deflated hopes spawned when he became America’s first black president amid expectations he would lead a era of transformation and bridge the country’s now-gaping partisan divide. “The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you. My fellow citizens – you were the change,” Obama said, citing his ending of the Iraq war, more rights for gays and lesbians and near universal healthcare. “If you turn away now – if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible – well, change will not happen.”
As 20,000 supporters packed into a sports arena chanted “four more years,” Obama launched a biting critique of Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, candidates he said would lead America into dangerous waters abroad. “My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly. “After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not Al-Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was ‘tragic’ to end the war in Iraq, and he won’t tell us how he’ll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will.”
Throughout the evening leading Democrats lauded Obama as a bold commander-in-chief, with Vice President Joe Biden saying he had a “spine of steel” and Senator John Kerry quipping: “Ask Osama bin Laden if he’s better off than he was four years ago.” Again and again, Obama cast the election as a choice – between his policies designed to lift up the pained middle class, and Romney’s “trickle down” economics, which he said risked a return to recession. “When you pick up that ballot to vote – you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation,” Obama said, forecasting fateful choices looming on jobs and taxes and war and peace. “I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now. Yes, our path is harder – but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer – but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind.”
Obama cast his speech as a rallying call for Americans to unite to overcome the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington, warning that Romney would fire teachers, impoverish students, all to give more tax breaks to millionaires. Obama also posed as a teller of hard truths, saying “it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades”. Romney, who made his own convention pitch to voters a week ago, did not immediately comment on the speech, but his campaign manager Matt Rhoades accused the president of laying out policies that had already failed. “He offered more promises, but he hasn’t kept the promises he made four years ago,” Rhoades said. “Americans will hold President Obama accountable for his record. They know they’re not better off and that it’s time to change direction.”
It seemed unlikely that Obama’s speech would break open the race with Romney, but it appeared to hit the mark in the hall. “This once in a lifetime experience was more than a rally cry, but a call to action. I’m more ready than ever to answer the call for Obama,” said John Matthew Borders IV of Dorchester, Massachusetts. Tiffany Raspberry of Brooklyn, New York said she had never been prouder to be a Democrat. – AFP
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