Women's rights advocate Sandra Fluke speaks at the Democratic National… (Tannen Maury / European…)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Elizabeth Warren, the consumer crusader and liberal heroine, joined the parade bashing Mitt Romney at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday night, saying the GOP nominee would undermine the middle class by slashing the social safety net.
In fiery rhetoric drafted for delivery in a prime-time address, the Massachusetts Senate hopeful said Romney “wants to give tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires … but he and [running mate] Paul Ryan would pulverize financial reform, voucher-ize Medicare and vaporize 'Obamacare'.”
“President Obama believes in a level playing field,” Warren said, in one of many testimonials to the incumbent. “He believes in a country where nobody gets a free ride or a golden parachute.”
Running into stiff headwinds resulting from a stubbornly high unemployment rate, Obama and his fellow Democrats have sought to turn the November election from a referendum on the past 3½ years to a choice between the incumbent and his Republican rival, a former Massachusetts governor.
PHOTOS: Protests of the DNC
One after another, speakers sought Wednesday night to paint that choice in the starkest terms.
Former President Clinton was prepared to join the effort, following Warren with a nominating speech that offered his critical take on the GOP’s gathering last week in Florida. “In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president’s reelection was pretty simple,” Clinton said in remarks prepared for delivery. He described it this way: “We left him a total mess, he hasn’t finished cleaning it up yet, so fire him and put us back in charge.”
Speakers praised Obama’s record: passing healthcare reform, fighting to lower student loan costs, supporting veterans, bailing out the U.S. auto industry. They said things had gotten better under his watch — the country is no longer hemorrhaging jobs, they noted, even if the rate of recovery is disappointing. But the great weight of effort seemed intended to cast Romney in the least flattering light.
There were aggrieved stories from workers who said they had suffered when Romney’s Bain Capital took over their companies. “I don’t think Mitt Romney is a bad man,” said Randy Johnson, a former factory worker. “What I fault him for is making money without a moral compass. I fault him for putting profits ahead of people like me.”
Speakers asserted Romney’s privileged upbringing and considerable wealth meant he could not feel for those suffering economically.
“We certainly want those at the top to do well,” said New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer. “But if you base your entire presidency and your entire economic platform on helping them do even better, you’re missing what makes the economy tick, because not everyone has been as fortunate as Mitt Romney. You cannot base your whole approach on a life experience as rarefied as his.”
One after another, women invoked Romney’s opposition to legal abortion and proposal to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood, saying it would turn back the clock on their rights.
“We’ve come so far, we’ve come so far, so why are we having to fight in 2012 against politicians who want to end access to birth control?” said Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. “It’s like we woke up in a bad episode of ‘Mad Men.’”
For his part, Romney lay low a second day, locked away in debate preparation at a retreat in Vermont. But he briefly surfaced in a Fox News interview, saying that granting Obama a second term would be “a big mistake.”
“I don’t think the American people want to see this president get another four years,” Romney said. “These last four years have not been good for the middle class in America…. This has not been a good time for the American people.”
PHOTOS: Scenes from the DNC
Clinton’s appearance was the highlight of Wednesday night’s program, which did not get off before a few hitches. First, Obama’s acceptance speech was moved from the Carolina Panthers’ outdoor football stadium to the much-smaller convention arena because of concerns about the weather.
Then Democrats had to clean up a mess arising from Tuesday’s adoption of their platform, a broad statement of the party’s principles.
Opening the day’s session, Democratic leaders bulldozed through an amendment putting the word “God” back into the document and restating the party’s support for Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.