President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden wave at the conclusion of the… (Tom Pennington / Getty Images )
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- President Obama made the case Thursday night for his reelection by framing the vote in two months as a choice between a country built on community and a culture of everyone for himself.
“We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it,” Obama said in a speech formally accepting his party’s nomination and wrapping up the Democratic National Convention.
“But we also believe in something called citizenship — a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.”
Although he mentioned his opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, by name only once, it was clear to whom he referred throughout his 38-minute address.
He suggested Romney would pursue a return to policies of past Republican administrations — tax cuts for the well-to-do, less regulation — and said they helped produce the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and hollowed out the American middle class.
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“We have tried that and we’re not going back,” Obama said, uttering a line that was the night’s collective mantra, from speaker after speaker. “We’re going forward.”
Spilling well past the hour of prime-time coverage allotted by the major TV networks, Obama offered a long list of achievements including passage of his sweeping healthcare overhaul, an end to the war in Iraq, the routing of Al Qaeda and a lessening of the U.S. dependency on foreign oil.
He did not give much detail on the goals a second Obama administration would pursue, though he vowed to fight global warming, remain a staunch ally of Israel, defend Medicare from efforts to turn it into a voucher program and oppose any attempts to privatize Social Security.
More specifics were offered in a document issued by the White House hours before the president spoke.
The list included creation of 1 million new manufacturing jobs by the end of 2016; doubling exports in the next two years; cutting oil imports in half by 2020; slowing by half the growth of college tuition in the next decade and reducing the federal deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years.
He referred broadly to those goals, as well as the economic hardship of the past 3½ years, though he never spoke explicitly of the high unemployment that has persisted throughout his presidency.
“I never said this journey would be easy, and I won’t promise that now,” Obama said in asking for another four years in the White House.
“Yes, our path is harder but it leads to a better place,” the president said in closing. “Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. We don’t turn back. We leave no one behind. We pull each other up.”
There was little of the high-flown rhetoric that marked Obama’s introduction to the country at the Democratic convention in 2004. At times, the tone was biting, even sarcastic, as when he referred to Romney’s lack of foreign policy experience.
“You don’t call Russia our No. 1 enemy — not Al Qaeda, Russia — unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp,” Obama said in one of many passages that suggested Romney was of a generation whose time had passed.
“You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally,” the president said, referring to Romney’s bumpy summer overseas trip.
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He answered Republican criticism that the country was no better off under his leadership by suggesting that the problems he inherited in January 2009 were not susceptible to quick fixes.
“The truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve the challenges that have been built up over decades,” Obama said.
Appearing before the president, Vice President Joe Biden served up a long and laudatory introduction, describing what he called a behind-the-scenes glimpse of working alongside the president. “Folks, I’ve watched him,” Biden said. “He has never wavered. He never, never backs down. He always steps up.”
He assumed the traditional supporting role of taking after the opposition, saying Republicans evaded substance at last week’s GOP convention to hide their true intentions from voters.
He delivered what has become his signature line, touting two of what he considers the administration’s most important achievements, helping rescue the failing U.S. auto industry and eliminating the leader of Al Qaeda.
“Osama bin Laden is dead,” Biden said, “and General Motors is alive.”
The refrain brought the crowd to its feet, as delegates waved blue and red "fired up" and “ready for Joe" signs.