Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Change needs time, Obama tells crowd

Pitch launches re-election bid

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- U.S. President Barack Obama implored recession-weary Americans to grant him a second term on Thursday, assuring them better days are ahead in a spirited address that nonetheless stood in stark contrast to the uplifting message of hope and change that propelled him to the White House.

"The election four years ago wasn't about me, it was about you," said Obama -- his wife, two daughters and millions of Americans looking on -- as he officially accepted his party's nomination at the Democratic National Convention.

"My fellow citizens, you were the change... If you turn away now, if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn't possible, well, change will not happen."

Obama acknowledged the path he's offering Americans won't be quick or easy, and his remarks at the beginning of his half-hour address largely lacked the heady rhetorical flourishes he's known for.

He's not the same person he was four years ago, Obama said. Indeed, the president is leaner, greyer and appears more fatigued than when he bounded onto the stage in Denver four years ago to revel in his presidential nomination.

"You didn't elect me to tell you what you wanted to hear," Obama said. "You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades."

Nonetheless, Obama said, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"Know this, America: Our problems can be solved. Our challenges can be met. The path we offer may be harder, but it leads to a better place. And I'm asking you to choose that future."

Obama at times sounded defiant as he frequently rebuked his Republican rival for the White House, Mitt Romney, and forcefully defended his four years in office against attacks from his foes.

"I refuse to ask families to give up deductions for owning a home, raising their kids just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut," he said.

He ridiculed the Republican mantra that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way to kickstart the sputtering U.S. economic recovery.

"Over and over, we have been told... that since government can't do everything, it should do almost nothing," Obama said.

"If you can't afford health insurance, hope that you don't get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that's just the price of progress. If you can't afford to start a business or go to college, take my opponent's advice and borrow money from your parents."

That's a vision for America that would take the country backwards, he added.

The president also mocked Romney for some of his foreign policy missteps. "You don't call Russia our No. 1 enemy -- and not al Qaida -- unless you're still stuck in a Cold War time warp," he said to laughter from the crowd. "You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can't visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally. My opponent said it was 'tragic' to end the war in Iraq, and he won't tell us how he'll end the war in Afghanistan. I have, and I will."

By the end of the address, Obama finally spurred deafening, jubilant cheers from the crowd as he beseeched Americans to stay the course and give him more time to pull the country America out of its economic morass.

"If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void," he said.

Some of the heaviest hitters of the Democratic party have been on hand all week at the cavernous downtown Time Warner arena to deliver the same message to Americans: vote for Obama on Nov. 6 to enable him to continue turning the country's fortunes around.

On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden spoke of his perspective from a "ringside seat" in the Oval Office.

"Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive," Biden exclaimed.

-- The Canadian Press


AN APPRAISAL: He calibrated. Then he attacked. Then he did it all over again. Carefully, deliberately, President Obama reached out to independent voters in his speech Thursday night by calibrating how he talked about government, personal responsibility and the economy. Yet he also provided the type of meaty, base-pleasing comments that he hopes will get loyal Democrats fired up to work for his re-election the next two months.

MITT WHO?: Once. That's how many times Mitt Romney was mentioned by name by Obama during his speech.

AFTER THE SPEECH: Obama's speech is over, and the arena is alive with American flags, Bruce Springsteen music and signs as he waves to the crowd. The end of this convention marks the beginning of the end of the campaign for the incumbent president -- the moment when the race becomes a sprint.

NOW EXPERIENCE MATTERS: In his speech, Obama tells the audience "in a world of new threats and new challenges," they should choose "leadership that has been tested and proven." He didn't feel that way four years ago. His campaign in 2008 was built on the ideas of hope and change. And during that time, he hit back against the idea that national security experience was critical for a new president.

THE DAUGHTERS: Four years is a long time when it's a half or a third of your life, and so TV viewers who hadn't seen the Obama girls much since 2008 may have been startled at just how much they've grown. Malia is now 14, and just started (gasp!) high school. Sasha is 11, now in sixth grade. Malia is nearly as tall as her parents: "Even though she's 5-9, she's still my baby," Obama said two years ago. As for Sasha, her parents told People last month she's suddenly resists cuddling.

CELEBRITY WATCH: Obama has plenty of famous friends. Actresses Scarlett Johansson, Eva Longoria and Kerry Washington each had speaking roles at the convention. Mad Men's Jon Hamm and his girlfriend, actress-writer-director Jennifer Westfeldt, were also spotted in the crowd.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 7, 2012 A18

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