My friend Bill Otis has offered an “opening statement” for Mitt Romney to present tomorrow night. I don’t know that the candidates will give opening statements. Typically, I think, they give closing statements of a minute or so, instead. But there’s much in Bill’s statement that Romney can make good use of:
My fellow Americans, our country remains, as Lincoln said, the last, best hope of earth. We should be proud to be citizens of this exceptional, brave, and generous country — but tonight, we should also be worried. Under the present administration, we are headed in the wrong direction. Huge numbers of our people are not better off than they were four years ago. They’re worse off.
Even more ominously, the country itself is worse off. The President has touted a supposed economic “recovery” — saying recently that the private sector was “doing fine” — but for the millions and millions still unemployed, and the yet more millions who have given up even the hope of employment, there is no recovery. For the rest of the country, such recovery as there has been is the weakest and slowest since the Great Depression.
This is not because Mr. Obama failed to keep his promises, although in many instances he has. It’s because they were the wrong promises to start with. They were promises that assumed more and more government is the answer. But as Ronald Reagan knew, government — bigger, more expensive, more indebted, and more controlling government — is not the answer, it’s the problem.
While our economy deteriorated, Mr. Obama ignored the crisis in front of him and concentrated on pushing through Congress, in a secretive process and on a Democrats-only party line vote, a health care plan we can’t afford and don’t want. Mr. Obama promised you that you’d be able to keep your own health insurance if you wanted to, and at lower premiums, but neither of those things is true.
In the meantime, the President’s plan drains hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare, all at the time he and his backers have cynically attempted to frighten our seniors about what his opponents supposedly aim to do. Let’s be clear about this right now. What Paul Ryan and I will do is steer Medicare away from the bankruptcy towards which it is headed. Mr. Obama, by contrast, has no plan except to keep kicking the can down the road, and let seniors fend for themselves as best they can once he’s out of office and the bills come due.
His only plan for the broader economy is to continue, at a dizzying and unsustainable pace, to borrow money we don’t have to spend on programs that will expand the size and power of the central government. They will encourage a culture of dependency that is the opposite of the Founders’ vision, a vision of enterprise and self-reliance. Is that what we have today? Under Mr. Obama, more people are on food stamps that ever before, and more people are living below the poverty line than at any time since it was invented.
Mr. Obama wants to bankroll his already bloated welfare state at the expense of private business, families and individuals. He’s content to raise taxes on everyone — as he knows will happen in less than three months when the Bush tax cuts expire — but he wants especially to raise them on the productive and successful people he repeatedly demonizes. His angry, divisive, class warfare attacks on those who work the hardest and provide the jobs are utterly at odds with his promise to be the President of all the people. Instead, he has become the most partisan and polarizing President since Richard Nixon.
It is true, as Mr. Obama so often says, that he inherited a difficult situation. He did indeed inherit trouble — and has turned trouble into disaster. He promised us that, if Congress adopted his boondoogle stimulus plan, the unemployment rate would fall well below eight percent. He got his stimulus — mostly a package of goodies for his party’s special interest constituencies — but the promised drop in unemployment disappeared down the memory hole. He promised us that he would cut the deficit in half. Instead, he has added to it at a rate vastly beyond any President’s peacetime borrowing, ever. If he is re-elected, he will add yet more trillions. He knows it and so do you.
If I become President, this will stop. We will not spend money we don’t have, and we will not leave our children and grandchildren a boatload of bills we have been unwilling to pay, but they’ll have to. We will not demonize any segment of our economy or our people. The main domestic problem we have is not too little taxing, it’s too much spending. My emphasis will be on promoting growth, rather than pointing the finger at my predecessors for my failure to do so.
Finally, we all know that Mr. Obama has a wonderful smile, an engaging manner, and a way with words — lots of words. I’m no match for him in those ways. If this were an election for Mr. Charm, the President would win hands down, and I’d probably vote for him myself. But it’s an election about what fork we are to take in the road of our country’s destiny. We cannot afford four more years of dependency, debt and decline, and we’ve listened to excuses long enough. We need a fresh start for a strong America, an America ready to deal with decline at home and outrages abroad — a start like the one Ronald Reagan gave us. If you confer on me the honor of becoming your President, a fresh start is what we will get.