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DNC 2016: Obama Strikes Back

Binyamin Rose, Philadelphia

“We’ve always had differences with Republicans. A contest of ideas always pushes this country forward. But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t Republican and it wasn’t conservative. There were no solutions to pressing problems. Just the fanning of resentment, fear, anger, and hate, and that’s not the America I know.”

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


US President Barack Obama gestures during the third night of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 27, 2016. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP)


Like the attorney he was trained to be, President Barack Obama upped his game, taking on the tone of judge, jury, and hangman, unleashing a powerful rebuttal to the Republican Party’s convention, and specifically Donald Trump, while forcefully defending his own seven-and-a-half-year record in office. 

Saying the country was stronger and more prosperous than when he assumed office in January 2009, Obama ticked off a list of advances, including recovery from recession, his health care plan, weaning the nation off foreign oil while doubling domestic energy production, bringing military boots back to US ground, while burying Osama bin Laden without his. 

He then went on the offensive against the man who would like to have his job next — the Donald, as Obama called him in one reference. 

“We’ve always had differences with Republicans. A contest of ideas always pushes this country forward,” the president said. “But what we heard in Cleveland last week wasn’t Republican and it wasn’t conservative. There were no solutions to pressing problems. Just the fanning of resentment, fear, anger and hate, and that’s not the America I know.” 

After praising the woman who would like to have his job, Hillary Clinton, for keeping her cool under pressure, never quitting no matter how hard anyone tries to knock her down, and having earned the respect of world leaders, Obama said: “Then there’s Donald Trump.” 

When the crowd began to jeer, Obama said: “Don’t boo. Vote.” 

“The Donald is not really a planned guy,” he continued. “I know plenty of businessmen and women who achieved remarkable success without leaving a trail of unpaid debts and losses and leaving people with the feeling they’ve gotten cheated. 

“Our greatness does not depend on Donald Trump, or on any one person,” Obama added. “Donald Trump thinks if he scares enough people, he will win enough votes to win the election, but he will lose that bet. We’re not a fragile people, he alone cannot restore order, and we are not a people who look to be ruled.” 

Earlier in the evening, Vice President Joseph Biden made his last hurrah. Caustic as always, Biden said Trump’s cynicism is unbounded. “His lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in a phrase he’s made famous. You’re fired. Think about it. How can there be pleasure in saying you’re fired? He says he cares about the middle class? Give me a break. That’s bunch of malarkey.” 

Attacking Trump for confusing bluster with strength, Biden said: “No major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or is less prepared to deal with our national security.” 

In setting up Trump with this one-two punch, the Democrats fired their best weapons. It will be a challenge for Hillary Clinton in her acceptance speech tomorrow night to marshal that same moxie and rouse the crowd. 

But in the meantime, Trump and the Republicans probably had a sleepless night drawing up their counterarguments in what certainly will be another 100 days of nastiness and mudslinging.

Getting a Handle on Tim Kaine

Ever since Hillary Clinton selected Virginia senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, critics on the left and right have assailed him. 

Kaine is tough to buttonhole. He owns a gun but supports stricter gun controls. As a Catholic, he’s against abortion personally, yet earns a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood. On Israel, Kaine supports a two-state solution, voted for the Iran deal, and boycotted Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. J Street has poured six figures into his campaign coffers. 

Kaine also was one of 17 senators who declined to sign a letter in April urging President Obama to increase America’s annual military aid to Israel. 

Yet Kaine joined a bipartisan group of senators this week, urging the Senate Armed Services Committee to include an additional $320 million for Israeli missile defense systems in the 2017 — aid that the Obama administration is holding up. 

And two months ago, he told attendees at the Jewish American Month Celebration in Washington organized by The Friedlander Group how as governor of Virginia, he opposed bills that promoted Christian worship at public events. “I just deeply believe that that people shouldn’t be forced into a setting where the worship does not honor their own faith traditions,” Kaine said. 

One Clinton delegate from Virginia, Dianne Carter-De Mayo, who clerked in Kaine’s legal firm, told me she found Kaine to be an extraordinarily fair boss: “Whenever a secretary had a problem, even with a partner, he was the one they went to in order to work it out. He doesn’t play favorites and treats everybody equally.” 

On stage, Kaine came across as personable and conversational, although while mocking Donald Trump’s overuse of the plea “believe me,” he tried imitating his voice and mannerisms, It was not only unbecoming but risks coming across as hypocritical, especially as Democrats have roundly condemned Trump for his own descent into mockery. 

Kaine peppered his speech with a few crowd-pleasing lines in Spanish, which should make him an effective campaigner in Hispanic strongholds. 

He praised Hillary Clinton for her consistency in public service. “She has passion for children and families that preceded her into public office and hung on to it. Donald Trump has a passion too. It’s himself.” 

Kaine was called Hillary’s “safe pick.” It’s safe to say he should be a net asset on the campaign trail, but he will likely face some withering questioning, and deservedly so, to probe the inconsistencies between his personal and public positions, especially in light of his high praise for Hillary Clinton’s consistency in that regard.

Hail Caesar

With traffic on Philadelphia highways at a standstill anywhere near the Wells Fargo Center, my trusty Waze redirects me on scenic detours through the run-down downtown. While large swaths of I-95 are designated work zones, many side streets look like they’re under destruction, not construction. A bus ahead of me rocks back and forth from reverse to forward while rows of surprisingly patient drivers wait to see if it really squeezes through. 

So when former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers recommended an action plan for the first 100 days of any new administration to invest $1.2 trillion in infrastructure, I lent him my ears. 

“Julius Caesar built a bridge across the Rhine in nine days,” said Summers, who is currently Harvard’s president emeritus. “So why does it take us five years to repair the bridge along the Charles River that overlooks my office?” 

Perhaps it’s because America, with a national debt approaching $20 trillion can’t afford it? Summers dismissed that notion before an audience at PoliticoHub. 

“That’s insanity. We can borrow money for 30 years at 2.3 % in a currency that we print ourselves, yet we have the lowest public investment rate since the Second World War,” he said. “You see the results at Kennedy Airport, in paint peeling off schools across the country, and the potholes you see in this city.” 

Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, seconded the motion. “Infrastructure investment will tighten labor markets and bring wages up, and that will appease some of the anger that people feel about record corporate earnings at a time when their wages have been stagnant.”

Who’s Going to Win? Wait Two Weeks

Donald Trump got a post-convention bounce in the polls, and Hillary Clinton should get hers next week. Wait for the convention dust to settle, and by August 15th, we should have a very strong indication of who the November winner will be. 

“Most voters aren’t going to change their minds,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political newsletter published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “So I wouldn’t expect dramatic changes to occur after we get our first look at polling statistics in mid-August.” 

Sabato’s Crystal Ball is headed by Dr. Larry Sabato, a Rhodes scholar who founded the center. He claims “a remarkable 98% accuracy rating in projecting all races for president, Senate, House, and governor since 2000.” 

For now, Sabato’s crystal ball shows Hillary Clinton with 347 electoral votes safe, likely, and leaning to her, with 191 safe, likely, and leaning to Trump, although he admits that if the election were held today, it would certainly be closer, and Trump could very well win.

Mishpacha News Editor: Binyamin Rose

Kondik said that Trump’s path to victory lies in holding all of the states that gave Mitt Romney 206 electoral votes in 2012, and flipping Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida from blue to red. 

I asked him how Trump can do that. 

“He’s got to spend more money on TV advertising than he’s been spending,” Kondik said. “Trump’s been saying Clinton is throwing her money away on television ads. There is some political science research showing TV advertising is ephemeral, so he may be right about that, but eventually, Trump’s going to have to spend more money on voter registration for his supporters. Clinton may just overwhelm him in that capacity in those states where just a percentage point or two can make a difference.” 

Kondik said Trump also needs to win over more of the lower-middle-class rural white Republican voters, some of whom crossed over to vote Obama in 2012. “They might find Trump more of a Republican they can identify with compared to Romney,” Kondik said. “But he’s got to maintain Romney’s strength among the more traditional Republicans — the wealthy, white, well-educated voters that might be resistant to Trump — and that’s not going to be easy.”

Sneak Preview of Hillary’s Finale

Hillary Clinton will put the finishing touches on tonight’s acceptance speech during the course of the day, but Brian Fallon, press secretary of her campaign organization, Hillary for America, gave reporters a sneak preview yesterday. 

“While she will hit on the same themes and notes as you heard on the campaign trail, she will set up the contrast between her and Donald Trump,” Fallon said. “We will stand with our allies, and not abandon them as we’ve seen from answers Donald Trump has given on NATO, and we are going to draw on the richness and diversity of the American population instead of insulting wide swaths of America.” 

For his part, Donald Trump hasn’t been idling his time away. He probably has blisters on his typing fingers from a steady stream of Tweets aimed at undermining Hillary’s credibility and integrity, needling Bernie Sanders for caving, and promoting his own scheduled campaign visits Thursday to Iowa and Colorado and the whistle-stop tour of his running mate, Mike Pence, to Michigan and Wisconsin.

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