Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Democrats are running an accusation convention

By William J. Bennett, CNN Contributor
September 5, 2012 -- Updated 1713 GMT (0113 HKT)
The Obama family takes to the stage as the gathering draws to a close on Thursday, September 6, the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/08/27/politics/gallery/best-of-rnc/index.html' target='_blank'>See the best photos from the Republican National Convention. </a> The Obama family takes to the stage as the gathering draws to a close on Thursday, September 6, the final day of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. See the best photos from the Republican National Convention.
HIDE CAPTION
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
Best of the DNC
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • William Bennett: President Obama promised Americans great achievements
  • Bennett: Obama's surrogates mentioned few of his accomplishments at the DNC
  • He says Obama has broken many of his campaign promises
  • Bennett: Democrats will continue the accusation convention for two more days

Editor's note: William J. Bennett, a CNN contributor, is the author of "The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood." He was U.S. secretary of education from 1985 to 1988 and director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H.W. Bush.

(CNN) -- There are two types of conventions for a party in power, as Newt Gingrich once said: accusation conventions and achievement conventions. Accusation conventions run against their opponents' record; achievement conventions highlight their own.

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan ran an achievement convention. He rarely mentioned Jimmy Carter's record, even though it had been so poor. Instead, his campaign slogan was "Leadership that's working." He ran an uplifting campaign focused on America's turnaround and that it was "Morning in America" again.

After day one of the Democratic National Convention, it seems the Democrats are running a quite different convention.

William Bennett
William Bennett

Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio and the keynote speaker Tuesday night, pulled no punches in blaming the economic status quo on the Bush years. "Their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price. Mitt Romney just doesn't get it," Castro said.

Former governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, made it a little more personal, "If Mitt was Santa Claus, he would fire the reindeer and outsource the elves," Strickland said in a speech full of attacks on Mitt Romney.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, speaking about young Americans, took it a step further. "Today's Republicans and their nominee for president tell us that those first-graders are on their own — on their own to deal with their poverty," he said. Republicans will leave them with, "an underfunded school, with neighborhood crime and blight, with no access to nutritious food and no place for their mom to cash a paycheck, with a job market that needs skills they don't have, with no way to pay for college."

First lady Michelle Obama closed the night with a moving speech, especially when she thanked and honored the military, but even she made little or no mention of President Obama's achievements. In 2008, a speech like hers would have been appropriate, but when the national debt hit $16 trillion yesterday and another anemic jobs report is expected Friday, her speech seemed out of touch and void of reality.

She said, to rousing applause, "Because for Barack, success isn't about how much money you make, it's about the difference you make in people's lives." It's hard for the American people to notice any difference in their lives when 23 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed, or have given up looking for work. Unemployment has been over 8% for 42 months, and one in six Americans lives in poverty.

Obama promised the American people great achievements. Last night his surrogates mentioned a few accomplishments they see as achievements -- Obamacare, the auto bailout, the end of "don't ask, don't tell," killing Osama bin Laden, and withdrawing the troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. But he promised to cure the "broken politics in Washington," to cut the deficit in half by the end of his first term, to not raise taxes on middle-class Americans, to protect Medicare, and to cut the cost of health care. He's broken many of these promises; on others, the verdict is still out.

With few achievements to campaign on, Democrats are sure to continue the accusation convention for the remaining two days. On Wednesday night President Bill Clinton will likely contrast his presidency and President Bush's, with few mentions of the Obama record. It could sound much like his recent ad for Obama in which he says, "The Republican plan is to cut more taxes on upper-income people and go back to deregulation. That's what got us in trouble in the first place."

Sadly, accusations work in politics, and Republicans should not take them lightly. Too few Republicans have distinguished themselves, in policy and rhetoric, from the problems of the Bush years.

The most effective way for Republicans to distance themselves from 2008 is to look to 2013. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should emphasize that they are not the previous Republican administration and they have the agenda and record to prove it. An accusation convention, after all, may be all the Democrats have left.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of William Bennett.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1723 GMT (0123 HKT)
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 1938 GMT (0338 HKT)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1128 GMT (1928 HKT)
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1241 GMT (2041 HKT)
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2036 GMT (0436 HKT)
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2211 GMT (0611 HKT)
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 2218 GMT (0618 HKT)
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1721 GMT (0121 HKT)
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 2231 GMT (0631 HKT)
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
September 11, 2014 -- Updated 1327 GMT (2127 HKT)
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT