Sunday, September 9, 2012

Clearest Choice of our Time

The dueling political conventions presented starkly different portraits on how to go about fixing the problems facing America.

Republicans in Tampa pounded on President Obama’s “you-didn’t-build-that” statement and paid homage to the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit, making the case that the economy, if left unshackled by taxes and regulation, can get back on course.

Democrats countered by stressing the good that government can do and tried to make a moral argument about giving a helping hand to the needy through government action.

While disavowed by the Democratic National Committee, the host committee for the city of Charlotte produced a video shown at the convention that seemed to perfectly resonate with the Democratic theme. “The government is the only thing we all belong to,” it said.

As Nancy Pelosi said when it was her turn on the podium, “this election is the clearest choice of our time.”

Rare is the election where the battle is fought on ground so grand and so clear. This is an election that will be chiefly about the role and scope of government.

Democrats trotted out Harvard Law School Professor and U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren with the message that the “system is rigged,” and former President Bill Clinton to give authority to his party’s chief argument for Obama: He inherited a mess from George W. Bush. No president, Clinton told the delegates, could have fixed the economy in four years.

Clinton laid down a marker that may end up backfiring against his party. Decrying Republican budget deficits immediately prior to and following his administration, Clinton extolled “arithmetic” as the way he was able to gain budget surpluses while president. That same “arithmetic” is a disadvantage to the current president, who is running trillion-dollar deficits.

The arithmetic of the budget gives Republicans their own moral imperative: that it is reprehensible to saddle future generations with a mountain of debt. Paul Ryan’s selection as Mitt Romney’s running mate signaled that Republicans would run a campaign on the big issues facing the nation and have a serious discussion about entitlement reform.

Two different tones

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