Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Why 'Hope and Change' is dead, 'Forward' lives

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed May 2, 2012
Host Jimmy Kimmel, right, greets President Obama after Kimmel's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
Host Jimmy Kimmel, right, greets President Obama after Kimmel's speech at the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In 2008, "Hope and Change" was Obama slogan; this year it's "Forward"
  • LZ Granderson says President Obama's ambitions have been scaled back
  • He says economy, D.C. dysfunction, GOP opposition have gotten in the way
  • Granderson says Romney's flip-flops make it hard for him to hold Obama accountable

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

(CNN) -- During the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night, Jimmy Kimmel made a joke that President Obama laughed at, but that you could see was just killing him inside.

"Mr. President, do you remember when the country rallied around you in hopes of a better tomorrow?" Kimmel asked. "That was hilarious. That was your best one yet."

Yeah it was.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson

I'm sure he still has a lot of hope. But I would dare to say the thing that changed most over these past three years is Obama. The unbridled optimism that his first campaign once embodied has been bludgeoned by dogmatism, pragmatism and bipartisan cronyism.

Hope and change are tough when the worst economy in 80 years is waiting to greet you at the door.

Hope and change are challenging when Rush Limbaugh, the unofficial gatekeeper of the conservative movement, tells his troops "I hope Obama fails" before your first day on the job.

Hope and change are virtually impossible when working with a Congress so dysfunctional that its approval rating never reached 25% in all of 2011 and was as low as 10% in February.

No wonder his hair is a bit grayer these days.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter and Facebook/CNNOpinion

And no wonder the new Obama slogan is "Forward."

"Hope and Change" captured the heart of a people who believed one man could change the culture of Washington. "Forward" acknowledges things are not where he said they would be, but takes ownership of a record that shows he at least has us pointed in the right direction: 12 consecutive months of job losses before he took office, 25 consecutive months and counting of job growth since 2010.

It's not as sexy, but at least it's honest.

After all, Guantanamo Bay is still open.

Unemployment is still above 8%.

Housing prices are still low.

This is why probably why Mitt Romney felt comfortable enough to send out this tweet: "The promises that candidate Obama made are very different than what President Obama delivered."

Embedded in the tweet was a video, showing Obama in 2008 promising to go through the federal budget line by line to cut fat, and then fast forwarding to today with stats about the growing debt and the nearly $1 million wasted on the now infamous GSA conference.

Had another challenger posted the ad, it would have landed a solid right hook to Obama's re-election bid.

But it was Romney, so it was more like a boomerang -- an aggressive attack sent out but ultimately coming back to its sender. The last person who should want to start a video rewind contest is Romney, who has enough flip-flops and broken promises captured on film that he could start his own network.

Nonetheless, while the messenger is a bit shaky, the overall message is not. Obama has indeed fallen short on quite a few of the promises he's made over the years.

And the campaign slogan "Forward" reflects those shortcomings and challenges: obstructionist Republicans determined to bring him down, self-serving Democrats too scared to pass a budget, and a public so dense that at one point it thought Donald Trump would make a good president.

But at the end of the day, Obama has only himself to blame for the malaise of disappointment that has draped much of his presidency. A disappointment, mind you, that has less to do with his actual policy than with his inability to reach the ridiculously high bar he set for himself over the years.

Tweets like Romney's are not necessarily fair -- after all, nothing happens in a vacuum -- but Obama was the one who made all of the promises. He was the one who set the standard. He is the one sitting in his own prison. I doubt he'll ever say it, but I bet if he had a chance to do it all over again, he would underbid rather than overbid his hand.

Romney will continue to hammer away at what Obama hasn't done -- and he should -- if for no other reason than hoping to distract voters from seeing all of the things Obama has accomplished.

Like preventing insurance companies from denying people with pre-existing conditions, courtesy of the flawed but helpful Affordable Care Act; overturning "don't ask, don't tell;" appointing two women to the Supreme Court. Getting Osama bin Laden.

That was one of candidate Obama's promises, you know.

In 2007 he said he would get bin Laden, even if it meant going into Pakistan. This week marks the one-year anniversary of President Obama delivering on that promise. Funny, for some reason that clip didn't make it into Romney's ad.

I'm sure it was an oversight.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:30 PM EST, Sun December 28, 2014
Les Abend: Before we reach a conclusion on the outcome of AirAsia Flight QZ8501, it's important to understand that the details are far too limited to draw a parallel to Flight 370
updated 8:27 PM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
The ability to manipulate media and technology has increasingly become a critical strategic resource, says Jeff Yang.
updated 11:17 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Today's politicians should follow Ronald Reagan's advice and invest in science, research and development, Fareed Zakaria says.
updated 8:19 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Artificial intelligence does not need to be malevolent to be catastrophically dangerous to humanity, writes Greg Scoblete.
updated 10:05 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Historian Douglas Brinkley says a showing of Sony's film in Austin helped keep the city weird -- and spotlighted the heroes who stood up for free expression
updated 8:03 AM EST, Fri December 26, 2014
Tanya Odom that by calling only on women at his press conference, the President made clear why women and people of color should be more visible in boardrooms and conferences
updated 6:27 PM EST, Sat December 27, 2014
When oil spills happen, researchers are faced with the difficult choice of whether to use chemical dispersants, authors say
updated 1:33 AM EST, Thu December 25, 2014
Danny Cevallos says the legislature didn't have to get involved in regulating how people greet each other
updated 6:12 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Marc Harrold suggests a way to move forward after the deaths of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
updated 8:36 AM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Simon Moya-Smith says Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, who was killed by law enforcement officers, deserves justice.
updated 2:14 PM EST, Wed December 24, 2014
Val Lauder says that for 1,700 years, people have been debating when, and how, to celebrate Christmas
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Raphael Sperry says architects should change their ethics code to ban involvement in designing torture chambers
updated 10:35 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Paul Callan says Sony is right to call for blocking the tweeting of private emails stolen by hackers
updated 7:57 AM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
As Christmas arrives, eyes turn naturally toward Bethlehem. But have we got our history of Christmas right? Jay Parini explores.
updated 11:29 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
The late Joe Cocker somehow found himself among the rock 'n' roll aristocracy who showed up in Woodstock to help administer a collective blessing upon a generation.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
History may not judge Obama kindly on Syria or even Iraq. But for a lame duck president, he seems to have quacking left to do, says Aaron Miller.
updated 1:11 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Terrorism and WMD -- it's easy to understand why these consistently make the headlines. But small arms can be devastating too, says Rachel Stohl.
updated 1:08 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Ever since "Bridge-gate" threatened to derail Chris Christie's chances for 2016, Jeb Bush has been hinting he might run. Julian Zelizer looks at why he could win.
updated 1:53 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
New York's decision to ban hydraulic fracturing was more about politics than good environmental policy, argues Jeremy Carl.
updated 3:19 PM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
On perhaps this year's most compelling drama, the credits have yet to roll. But we still need to learn some cyber lessons to protect America, suggest John McCain.
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT