Philadelphia, July 23 –
Arrived in Philadelphia about noon on Sunday at a meeting of the Convention Credentials Committee, of which I am a member. And it took about 5 minutes to pick up the general buzz, two questions I heard over and over again as we discussed the Republican convention and Trump’s acceptance speech.
“Are things as bad as Trump says they are? And if they are, did he offer any solutions?”
I think the core themes of the coming presidential campaign – and the coming Democratic Convention – are established by these two questions. And their answers, we expect, will be provided by Hillary Clinton and Senator Timothy Kaine, our “presumptive” presidential and vice presidential nominees.
As I walked among Democratic delegates and heard these two questions repeated in various ways whoever I talked to, there was consensus that our country faced a lot of problems. We know that many many Americans feel economic insecurity. Wages have remained stagnant for working families for far too long. We all feel the shock of gun violence at home against police and civilians. But we also know that there is much good going on in America – and that we are far better off today under President Barack Obama than we were eight years ago when he was first elected.
Americans also know that terrorism — from Osama bin Laden and 9/11 to Al Qaeda and ISIS and other terrorist groups — cannot solely be blamed on President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. We all know the roots of terrorism today are complex, the result of decades of radicalization of radical jihadists under both Republican and Democratic administrations.
Only Donald Trump could say with a straight face, with cheers by Republicans acolytes at their convention, that it is all Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s fault — and think he could get away with such a blatant lie.
Of course there is nothing mutually exclusive about acknowledging America’s problems giving up America’s optimism and belief in our future that is in the blood stream of our history and culture.
And we also sense that as the campaign unfolds, many Americans will like less and less, and find scarier and scarier, Trump’s almost exclusive focus on himself – as the Prince of Darkness.
And so that led to the second question – -what exactly did Trump tell Americans were his solutions to the darkness? Did he tell us — not in detail, but even in general? No. The only example in the speech anyone could think of was — “build a wall” to protect us from the murderers and rapists from Mexico, as if that was a real solution. The economy and job creation? “I” can do it. Stopping the terrorists? “I” can do it. Defeating ISIS? “I” can do it. Stopping the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to lower wage countries? “I” can do it.
And exactly what are his solutions? He didn’t say. Trust me, was really his only answer.
What or who was I reminded of?
“I will make the trains run on time.”
Sorry – couldn’t resist. Look up that quote if you don’t know who or what I am referring to.
So just wait and see a different approach from the Democratic ticket.
We already heard Hillary Clinton and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, our presumptive presidential and vice presidential nominees, tell us on Friday: It’s about recognizing the fears and problems as real – but also, spelling out solutions and a positive, optimistic vision for the future. “We” Americans can work together and solve our problems. We always have. We always will.
We are a democracy – and we only know one approach to solving our problems.
Lanny Davis is co-founder of the Washington DC law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC, and Trident DMG, a strategic media firm specializing in crisis management. He served as special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98 and is a regular columnist for The Hill newspaper. He has been a friend of Hillary Clinton since they were students at Yale Law School together in 1969-70.