Donald Lambro

WASHINGTON - The most salient characteristic of the Obama administration's abject failure to put the American economy back to work has been their deafening silence on the issue in this campaign.

Barack Obama doesn't talk about the economy's painful weaknesses. Democrats in Congress are all but silent on the issue as if it doesn't exist. His campaign ads ignore it altogether as if everything's fine, asking voters to turn their attention to lesser issues. Issues that do not make the top 10 list of major concerns in voter surveys.

Across the Potomac River in Virginia, almost all of the Obama attack ads against Republican rival Mitt Romney are about abortion and contraception, hoping they will be able to woo enough women to vote for Obama on that single issue that will put this swing state into his electoral column.

In an election year when the president's handling of the economy is the No. 1 complaint, high unemployment and the lack of good paying jobs is No. 2, and unfathomable budget deficits and a nearly $16 trillion debt are No. 3 and 4, Obama believes he can win a second term on abortion, Romney's tax returns and bashing his successful career as a venture capital investor.

Apparently he thinks the American people are fools who will fall for that old sideshow carnival shell game where the con man distracts you long enough so that you do not see which walnut shell contains the nut.

In The Emperor's New Clothes, Hans Christian Anderson tells the tale of two tailors who weave a suit of clothes that is supposedly invisible to anyone who is either stupid or incompetent. When the emperor rides by, no one in the crowd dares to say anything, until a child cries out, "He isn't wearing anything at all."

Obama thinks that not enough voters will care that the economy is now in a sharp decline in the fourth year of his presidency if can keep them distracted by other issues. He is also counting on the base of his party and its leadership not to utter a word of complaint that 23 million Americans can't find good paying, full-time jobs. So far they've done a good job a gagging their lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

And they're counting on the national news media and the nightly news to focus their fire power on the Romney-Ryan ticket, while burying the economic news stories -- as the networks have been doing for the past four years.

They did it again Wednesday by ignoring the Commerce Department's negative report that the economy was barely growing at 1.7 percent and, economists say, will remain below 2 percent for the rest of this year.

It was left to vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan to say the obvious Wednesday night at the Republican national convention in Tampa, "I have never seen opponents so silent about their record..."

Silent because they know the economy during their time in office has not really recovered and is to a large degree much worse than it was in 2009 when Obama was sworn into office.

Silent, too, because they have nothing to say about how to strengthen the economy, create jobs, raise middle class incomes, expand overseas export markets, boost energy supplies to reduce gas prices, and save an unsustainable Medicare program for insolvency.

Their last shot at trying to jump start the economy was Obama's $800 billion spending stimulus plan in 2009 that was an abysmal, wasteful failure. He can point to nothing he has done since then that has worked.

"They've run out of ideas," Ryan said in an electrifying acceptance speech that put the Republican ticket back on the offensive. "Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they've got left. With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money -- and he's pretty experienced at that."

What was especially welcome and often inspiring in the convention speeches Wednesday was the determination by the party's younger rising stars to aggressively rebut the fallacious, flim-flam hucksterism peddled by Obama.

Like this one from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul which should be broadcast in a 30 second ad for the duration of the campaign:

"Mr. President, you say the rich must pay their fair share. But when you seek to punish the rich, the jobs that are lost are those of the poor and middle-class," Paul said.

Obama knows that the top 25 percent of income earners pay 87.3 percent of all federal income taxes, according to the IRS. But he's betting most Americans don't know that or don't believe it. Meantime, the truth is that over the past four years, the middle-class has been shrinking and they have born the brunt of the severe unemployment levels under Obama's failed economic policies.

For the past four years, the president has had the luxury of an extended honeymoon with the national news media. But that's been changed this week with a newly energized GOP campaign that has begun punching back with some effective firepower.

A major target was Obama's unending excuses: He "is the first president to create more excuses than jobs. In his view, it's George's fault. It's the bank's fault. It's Europe's fault. It's Congress's fault," said former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty. "Mr. president, if you want to find fault, I suggest you look in the mirror."

But besides the economy, no Obama statement took more of pounding from the convention podium than his "you didn't built that" claim which placed the government at the center of everything Americans have accomplished in their lives.

Ryan, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and others struck down that preposterous claim with a vengeance in a counter attack that revives a deeply held political belief in the American electorate.

Americans still believe that persistence, hard work and the opportunity to compete in the open market place in a free enterprise society is the surest path to success. They just want the government to get out of their way.

That's the economic revival Republicans were selling in Tampa this week. Next week, however, Obama and the Democrats will meet in North Carolina -- where the jobless rate is 9.7 percent -- peddling more government.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.