CHARLOTTE — Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) ripped House Republicans on Thursday for blocking President Obama’s efforts to jump-start the economy, accusing them of deliberately sabotaging the president for political gain.
“As a member of the Democratic House leadership, I have witnessed President Obama light candle after candle, trying to bring our country out of the darkness of a great recession, only to see Republicans douse the flickering flames and amuse themselves cursing the darkness,” he said in his convention speech.
While he condemned Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for their plan “to cut taxes for the wealthiest 1 percent, end the Medicare guarantee and seek to balance the budget on the backs of hard-working Americans,” he pulled the camera back much further and labeled their efforts part of a historical pattern using the same candle metaphor.
“When too many of our senior citizens were living their golden years in the darkness of economic insecurity, Franklin Roosevelt and Democrats created Social Security, lighting a candle while Republicans cursed the darkness,” he said. “When too many our elderly found their lives darkened by unaffordable and inaccessible health care and assistance, Lyndon Johnson and a Democratic Congress lit the twin candles of Medicare and Medicaid while Republicans stood on the sidelines and cursed the darkness.”
He rattled off a list of what he considered similar achievements from Obama, crediting him with preventing a depression, killing Osama bin Laden, ending the war in Iraq, rescuing the auto industry and passing health care reform.
“President Obama did not stand on the sidelines and curse the darkness,” he said. “He rolled up his sleeves and went to work lighting candles.”
Another member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), delivered a similarly blistering critique of Republican obstructionism in the House on Wednesday night. A Methodist pastor, Cleave let loose with a preacher’s wail calling on Republican lawmakers to finally work with Obama.
“We, with our diversity and our differences, are all in this together,” he said at one of the speech’s high points. “Let me be clear: When I say, ‘we’ I am not just talking about black people. When I say ‘we,’ I am not just talking about people of color. When I say ‘we’ I am not just talking about Democrats. When I say, ‘we’ I am talking about all of America: Americans who can barely afford to make ends meet; Americans who employ thousands and create jobs; Americans who are in K-12, college, grad school, and professional school; Americans of all walks of life. We mean us: Americans! Proud Americans!”
Cleaver’s was easily one of the best-received speeches of the night, second perhaps only to President Clinton.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.