Thank you, Mr. Obama, for taking the baton at a time when very few wanted it.
When you moved into the White House, the nation was reeling. The economy was battered. The electorate was demoralized. The workforce was decimated.
You message of "Hope and Change," resonated. White or black. Rich or poor. You were the first president in my adult life that captured the affection of both Wall Street and Main Street.
Your family? Michelle, Malia and Sasha represent the essence grace, beauty and intelligence.
On the evening of Tuesday, November fourth, 2008, you took the stage in Chicago's Grant Park. We watched you ascend to the nation's highest office. Eloquently accept the challenges ahead. My wife and I, tears in our eyes, spoke of how far our wonderful nation had come. An African American first family. A black man as president. Our sons would grow up in a different world. A better world.
As a nation, we were dreaming again.
It has been said that the best part about dreams is that fleeting moment when you are between asleep and awake. When you don't know the difference between reality and fantasy. When, for that brief second, the dream appears as reality.
Well, Mr. President, the course of your first term has seen the nation experience highs and lows. The issues you inherited? Complex and difficult. Such is the road traveled by all presidents.
Still, I cannot help but look back over the last four years and feel that perhaps your brightest moment came on the night of your victory. Before you would even inhabit the Oval Office. Because on that night, idealism and reality coalesced perfectly. Brought the nation together. Aligned our interests. Lifted our chins.
Since that perfect moment, as the challenges of our economic reality crowded out our sunny idealism, the sentiment has become less hopeful.
Four years ago, you promised hope and change. Today, the nation continues to hope. And little has changed.
As a candidate, you were an intelligent, charismatic man with little executive experience. But, suffering from the Bush hangover, the nation was grasping for straws. Senator John McCain was a weak opponent. His VP choice weakened him further. And while you, Mr. President, brought zero economic wherewithal to the table, Senator McCain himself would hardly qualify as an economist.
So, the electorate was willing to take a chance. Maybe, we thought, this guy is the answer. As Reagan was the antidote for the Carter years, perhaps Obama will heal our times.
Only, you did not. You made many promises. But delivered little.
You vowed, Mr. Obama, that you would cut the nation's deficit in half. Instead, you doubled it in 2009 and then presided over three further additions of more than $1 trillion.
You said, Mr. Obama, that you would cut health care costs by $2,500 per family. Yet, the average employee sponsored family premiums have increased by $1,975 since your health care legislation was passed.
For most of us, this election has everything to do with the economy. And as a matter of record, you've had few economic accomplishments.
When Congress passed your $787 billion stimulus package, you said these expenditures would reduce unemployment to 5.6% by the end of your first term. There were 23 million unemployed Americans when you took office. Today, 23 million Americans remain unemployed.
Under your watch the nation suffered through 43 consecutive months of an 8% plus unemployment rate. The longest such streak since the Great Depression. And still, we are nowhere near your 5.6% promise.
What about those with jobs? Unfortunately, Mr. President, their fortunes have not exactly been bolstered since you took office. In fact, the typical American household's real income has dropped 5.7% during your recovery. Worse yet, incomes have dropped more during your recovery than they did during the recession.
It has been enough to turn some of your supporters against you.
Take Professor Roberto Unger, your former Harvard Law School professor and a world renowned philosopher and social theorist. During the 2008 campaign, you and Professor Unger were in frequent contact. Now, the professor is among your more vocal critics. A Democrat, Professor Unger has said that you "must be defeated" this election.
I wish, Mr. President, that the bad news ended there.
Today, there are more people in poverty than when you took office. One out of six, in fact. Further, evidence shows that 47 million people currently receive food stamps. Up from 32 million when you took over.
Republican Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, recently published evidence of the economic mismanagement these last four years.
The total number of new people employed is negative 0.7%. Disability insurance enrollment is up 17.6%. Medicaid enrollment increased 19.3%. And the food stamp program enrollment has grown by over 65%.
The lack of any economic traction cuts across all ages. While opportunities have declined for working adults, recent college graduates face even bleaker circumstances.
Studies by Northeastern and Drexel Universities revealed that 53.6% of bachelor's degree-holders under the age of 25 were jobless or underemployed. Among those college graduates who were working in 2011, 37.8% were not working in a job that required a college degree. Nearly 10% of grads were jobless in 2011.
Census Bureau data reveals that the number of 26-year olds living with their parents has jumped 46% since 2007. Nearly a quarter of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 currently live with their parents! The number of inter generational households has reached the highest level in over 50 years.
Many of these young Americans voted for you, Mr. President. Many of them still have your poster on their bedroom walls.
Young people are not the only unsatisfied swath of the electorate.
A recent survey shows that you have upset a lot of doctors, as well. Even as you spoke out against insurance companies throughout your push to pass the Affordable Care Act, it turns out that the actual providers may have been among the most offended.
Jackson & Coker's recent survey shows that 55% of physicians support your opponent. Only 36% support you, Mr. Obama.
Four years after the recession, should circumstances not be more positive? How can the economy remain so stagnant?
Last week, Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel, said that the United States has the most world's most muscular business community. There is so much cash that could be put back to work. Help the economy grow. The S&P 500 has $2 trillion sitting on the books. There is an additional $1.4 trillion in excess bank reserves. Just sitting there.
Why is it just sitting? Because businesses are scared of the uncertainty.
Andy Puzder, CEO at CKE Restaurants, which employees about 21,000 people at its Carl's Jr. and Hardee's restaurants, said that the "current unfriendly economic environment best explains why American companies are sitting on over $2 trillion which they could invest."
When you took office, Mr. Obama, the landscape was foggy. The business community waited for you to clarify the road ahead. Set a course. Lead.
Instead, you followed the advice of ideologues who advised that you leverage the post-election good will and reform healthcare and Wall Street.
I agreed with you, sir. Both needed reforming. But not then! Not when the American skyscraper was burning to the ground. Your role as chief executive was to ensure the safety of everyone in that building. Get them out safely. Put out the fire. Assess the damage.
In fact, the twisted wreckage of the U.S. economy should have been your sole priority. Nothing else should have mattered.
But, you undertook an ambitious and contentious legislative journey that 70% of the nation stood against.
Only, all of that reform, at that worst of all possibly times, resulted in the constipation of the economy. Causing American businesses, big and small, to sit tight. Squeeze hard. Cease expenditures. Freeze hiring. Because the view had gone from unclear to opaque.
Business owners cited this as the greatest evidence of your lack of executive and economic foresight. Instead of providing clarity, you magnified the confusion.
Now, you request four more years. Your vice president, during his debate two weeks ago, shouted at his opponent to "Get out of the way" lest we impede your administrations progress. Only, I must ask, what progress was Mr. Biden alluding to?
I thought that your advertisements and campaign stops would provide clarity as to your accomplishments. Would lay out a second-term agenda. But, your advertisements have only endeavored to destroy your opponent's image. To paint him has a heartless, greedy plutocrat.
That strategy may have worked, if only he was one. And if you were not forced to debate him. During the initial debate, your opponent seemed, almost, human.
In fact, you opponent was the only candidate who presented a practical, common-sense agenda detailing the five elements of a plan to turn around the nation's economy.
Your advisers had worked so hard to disqualify your opponent from the job that they failed to build a case for why you should retain it. So, you seemed unable to defend your record. Unable to competently argue for another four years in our country's highest office.
Maybe that's why Pew Research notes that, since, your favorability rating has declined to 49%. Why only 30% of the public is "satisfied" with the condition of the nation (Gallup). Why 56% think the country is "off on the wrong track" (Washington/ABC).
Hardly surprising, when one considers that the rates of unemployment, second-quarter GDP and labor-force participation are all worse than they have been three weeks before any modern presidential election.
I guess we have a right to be jaded. Especially as your competitor, upon closer scrutiny, turns out to be a solid candidate.
He has taken the lead in most national polls. In fact, Mr. Obama, your opponent reached 50% in Gallup's daily tracking of likely voters -- something you have not been able to do. And this should be worrisome, Mr. President, as no candidate has ever been at 50% or higher at this point in the race and lost.
At a time when all eyes are on the economy, your opponent appears pretty well versed in matters financial and economic. And talk about executive experience, this guy should write a book.
Mitt Romney was the co-founder of Bain Capital. He founded the company, Mr. Obama. Then he led it for 15 years.
While at Bain, Mr. Romney helped to create and build Staples. I shop at that place, Mr. President. I know their employees. People who, essentially, have Mr. Romney to thank for their jobs. He's helped to create other companies, as well. Like Bright Horizons, a national child-care provider. Steel Dynamics, one of the largest U.S. steel producers.
Apparently, Mr. President, your opponent is a turnaround specialist for failing or less-than-effective entities. Like our economy.
I read that Romney turned around the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The event was sinking under its own weight. Mr. Romney, a Mormon with an interest in that region, took over and helped to pull off an acclaimed Winter Olympics event. And that's not all.
Romney helped to turn around Brookstone. Don't you love their vibrating chairs! The company was teetering on the brink of collapse. He also helped fix Wesley Jessen, a large contact lens manufacturer. Don't we need manufacturing jobs?
While at Bain, Romney's team bought Accuride, an ailing manufacturer of truck rims and wheels. Bain instituted performance bonuses that had a dramatically positive impact. Made the plants more productive. The company added 300 jobs. That's sort of what this nation needs, correct?
Mr. Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts. One of the country's most traditionally liberal states. They don't elect neo-conservatives up there. While in that role, Mr. Romney turned a budget deficit into a surplus and reduced the unemployment rate to 4.7%.
Talk about a resume!
Philosophically, Mr. Romney states that he is committed to capping Federal spending below 20%. Reducing non-defense discretionary spending by 5%. True, Mr. Obama, you made similar promises. But therein lies the difference. You didn't deliver. Even as democrats controlled the White House, Senate and the House of Representatives.
I like you, Mr. Obama. You are witty, erudite, and often charming. I thought that the birth-certificate controversy was ridiculous. And I am sorry that you and your family had to sit through that.
However, I was worried about your lack of experience. Next-to-no executive or economic background. I thought you should have run for the Governorship of Illinois before running for the White House. You probably would have stomped that creepy Rod Blagojevich fellow.
But, you decided to reach for the prize. And, stunningly, you got it. And we were so proud, Mr. Obama. Of you. And us.
However, I now realize that you were not qualified for the job. Such complexity in areas outside of your expertise. Not your fault. We were the ones that elected you.
On September 17th, you spoke to a crowd in Cincinnati's Eden Park.
"This is the clearest choice in a generation," you said. "There are two fundamentally different visions for moving the country forward."
Unfortunately Mr. Obama, you have failed to define your vision for doing so. Hope and change wins one term. A solid track record wins the second. Your track record is less than solid. And this nation's tradition dictates that, once given a job, you'd best provide results.
You've given us little by way of results. So, I cannot vote for you this year, Mr. President. Again, thank you for your courage, your effort and your willingness to fill the breach.
I think you'd join me, Mr. Obama, in hoping that the next president is able to turn this ship around. I think I know just the man for the job. And you are not him.