DENVER — “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from,” Barack Obama declared last night.
Talk about projection.
Accepting the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination before a crowd of roughly 80,000, Obama made a forceful case for change by arguing that the United States is far worse off at home and abroad than it was eight years ago and therefore, the nation must adopt new policies — his polices.
Over the course of the speech, Obama attacked John McCain for being too much like President Bush.
“The record is clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush ninety percent of the time,” Obama said.
He portrayed McCain as being out of touch with the plight of average Americans.
“It’s not because John McCain doesn’t care,” Obama said. “It’s because John McCain doesn’t get it.”
He criticized McCain for not doing more to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“Washington’s been talking about our oil addiction for the last thirty years, and John McCain has been there for 26 of them…” Obama told the crowd. “And today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.”
Even though Obama suggested that McCain has been in Washington too long, he chose Joe Biden as his running mate, who has been there far longer.
Obama also blasted McCain for being all bluster.
“If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that’s his choice — but it is not the change we need,” Obama said.
While Obama launched an all-out assault on McCain and called for change, his nearly 4,700-word speech included just 79 words that could even vaguely be construed as him pointing to a record of actually bringing about change.
“I believe that as hard as it will be, the change we need is coming,” Obama forecasted, dipping into his vast reservoir of inexperience. “Because I’ve seen it. Because I’ve lived it. I’ve seen it in Illinois, when we provided health care to more children and moved more families from welfare to work. I’ve seen it in Washington, when we worked across party lines to open up government and hold lobbyists more accountable, to give better care for our veterans and keep nuclear weapons out of terrorist hands.”
Not only did Obama find little to say about his actual record, but in order to inoculate himself from accusations of embellishment, he had to qualify his statement by speaking of himself as a passive observer (“I’ve seen it”) and collectivizing the achievements (“we worked”).
With this speech, it has now become abundantly clear that Obama won’t make a serious attempt to argue that he has any real accomplishments. Instead, his campaign is banking on the fact that the desire for change is so deep, and the contempt for President Bush so fierce, that merely linking McCain to the administration and representing something different will be enough to put Obama over the top.
He could be right. As weak as a candidate as John Kerry was in 2004, he came just 18 electoral votes shy of becoming president at a time when the Republican brand name was in much better shape than it is now.
Obama was able to ride the change theme to victory in the Democratic primaries, even though he started out as the heavy underdog, so he has no reason to believe that it won’t work for him in the general election.
But next week, Republicans will have an opportunity to fight back, and they will have plenty of material. Unlike Obama, McCain does have a record to run on.