In the waning days of the 1980 presidential campaign, Republican nominee Ronald Reagan used his allotted time in the closing moments of his only debate with President Jimmy Carter to ask a question. It was one of the most effective rhetorical devices in American history.
“Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”
Because most Americans answered a resounding “No” that night, Mr. Reagan was able to pull the line out again four years later, this time as President and against Walter Mondale, who ran a quixotic campaign to oust him. And Americans answered by electing Reagan to a second term.
Over the years, the question about being “better off” has been used to great affect by many politicians, including later aspirants to the White House. It became, in effect, a rhetorical trump card.
Now there is another question in the room—one that was asked, in a manner of speaking, during several recent special elections and will be commonplace this November as all of us go to the polls in the “off-year” ritual. The question is: “Are you safer than you were four years ago?”
It is hard to find anything about President Barack Obama’s first term—at least anything of substance—that can be realistically characterized as successful. And by successful, I mean accomplishing one’s stated goals. Whether it was the healthcare bridge too far, cap-and-trade, or dramatically improving the economy, this administration has simply not delivered on what it promised. Of course, in the area of national security they have tried to make good on pledges, but have found the resistance to every move to be surprising strong.
And one gets the feeling that not only did they not see failure coming in the euphoria of those early halcyon days in charge—but they really don’t have a clue as to where to go from here. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the area of national security and dealing with the very real threat of Islamist terror. And nowhere are the stakes any higher.