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(This is obviously a week old, which reflects the deal with the newspaper syndicate. It was released before Mitt had really stepped in it again)

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       Forget the speeches. What saved Barack Obama is where he did not deliver his: Bank of America Stadium would have been a terrible venue, named for one of the behemoth financial institutions whose egregious conduct symbolizes the shadiness of the nation’s financial debacle. What a lousy optic that would have been.
       Chalk up one blunder avoided, albeit inadvertently, but the clumsy last-minute pandering over adding God and Jerusalem to the party platform was a self-administered bruise that looked awful. The Democrats sure didn’t need that. They have enough problems.
       Foremost, of course, is unemployment. The brutal reminder came the morning after their big show, as they were striking the set to take their act on the road to the election less than two months away. Let’s face it. The new 8.1 percent number is not the kind of rallying cry they would want. Ninety-six thousand jobs added. Whoopee.


       Mr. Obama somehow must inspire with a plea for more time. “The truth is,” he acknowledged in his speech, “it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over the decades.” Again: Whoopee.
       Of course, the GOP stars were heckling from the sidelines, with variations of the hackneyed sound bite “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” What’s with these people? If they are such champions of innovation, why would they rip off Ronald Reagan’s word riff from 32 years ago? Of course, Bill Clinton, in his stemwinder, also couldn’t resist quoting the Gipper: “As another president once said, ‘There they go again.’”
       Besides, the answer to the “Are you better off” question is “Yes, as a matter of fact.” The Bush administration left behind an economy that was severely wounded, losing 800,000 jobs a month. Today, after stanching the bleeding and avoiding total catastrophe, we are still just healing. We’ve improved our condition from “critical” to “serious.” The work force is now growing again, but far too slowly, as the unemployment figures show.
       The Democrats are hoping they can sell voters on the idea that we will be worse off if we choose someone who would return us to the Bush days of lower taxes on the wealthy and stifled regulation, a formula for another cave-in. Mitt Romney, they warn, is nothing more than George W. Bush reincarnate.
       Whoever gets the blame, the past four years have produced a continuing downward slide as far as the World Economic Forum is concerned. WEF is one of those highfalutin collections of academics, businesspeople and politicians who get together and navel-gaze about the planet’s problems. They publish an annual survey of competitiveness among the world’s countries. Factors include a climate for new ideas, infrastructure and political stability. The United States is now seventh among 144, down two spots. The decline is blamed on “the low public trust in politicians and a perceived lack of government efficiency.”
       Golly gee, how could that be? Could it have anything to do with the free-for-alls that brought the United States to the brink of defaulting on the national debt? Might it have something to do with the lowering by Standard & Poor’s of the AAA credit rating that was an ingrained part of the nation’s pride? By the way, leading the pack of nations was Switzerland, where Mitt Romney squirrels away some of his money.
       Back home, we are careening toward the Nov. 6 day of reckoning, fueled by volatile negativity, since neither side really offers any exhilaration. Let’s face it: There isn’t all that much motivation in monotony. “Sameness You Can Believe In” doesn’t get the juices going among Obama supporters. Neither does “Same Stuff That Got Us Into This Mess,” which is what Romney offers. Can’t wait to see the debates and all those dreary arguments. Talk about lousy optics.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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