Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention was not electric . It wasn’t part of a night in which history was made. Instead, President Obama sought to persuade, not inspire. Obama laid out his candidacy to the hardened, increasingly skeptical, and disillusioned electorate. It was not an act of oratory, but the ultimate televised sales pitch.
In that respect, his speech was high on domestic content, focused on the economy. This was expected. But it also touched upon foreign policy. This is not abnormal in a presidential election, but Obama has particular reason to use foreign policy to showcase his first four years in office.
Continued polls have put Obama ahead of Mitt Romney in terms of foreign policy and national security. To this effect, Obama did not shy from hammering home this advantage in his speech:
“You know, in a world of new threats and new challenges, you can choose leadership that has been tested and proven. Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. We did.
I promised to refocus on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. And we have. We’ve blunted the Taliban’s momentum in Afghanistan, and in 2014, our longest war will be over.
A new tower rises above the New York skyline, Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat, and Osama Bin Laden is dead.”
In these three short paragraphs, Obama reiterated that in terms of national security and foreign policy, he has delivered. It was a crucial underpinning of his speech, which was otherwise more about promise to be fulfilled, than proimise actualized.
Will this poll well? Undoubtedly. Obama is, after all, the man cast as the person who brought Osama Bin-Laden to justice. However, in the wider scheme of the election, it is unlikely that the American public will dwell much on these issues.
Instead, and this was reflected in the attention which he gave to it, the focus of the average voter is on the economy, unemployment, and long term prospects for a nation battered by fiscal and financial storms. These are the issues for them, not Obama’s terrorism and rogue state fighting credentials.
There are, evidently, many holes in Obama’s narrative as being the ideal Commander-in-Chief. Under his watch, the Iran issue has steadily festered, without a solution being found. He has presided over a troop surge in Afghanistan that has not worked as expected. He has also widened the scope for drone warfare, raining death and destruction on the higher echelons of the enemies of America, but in turn creating deep resentment in the peoples of the nations affected.
These issues - however - are hardly likely to cause much discomfort to a President whose foreign policy credentials are known, and whose rival is totally lacking therein.
This is the reason why he was not the Commander-in-Chief on Thursday, but rather the Salesman-in-Chief. Such are the issues that matter to the ordinary voter.
President Obama may claim to have presided over, and possibly engineered, a renewed America on the world stage. After the turgid Bush years, America has regained its international clout and influence. He ended a war, and U.S. troops have started to come home. Bin Laden, a man who caused suffering to thousands across the nation has been killed. All these are achievements.
However, as Obama knows, this election battlefield is not in Afghanistan, or in Iraq, or in a small compound in Pakistan, but a referendum on the U.S. economy.