By Paul Gattis
The absence of former President George W. Bush at the Republican National Convention this week won't be lost on Mo Brooks.
"I wish he would be there, and I wish he were a speaker," said Brooks, the Republican Congressman from Huntsville who represents the state's 5th District.
Bush announced weeks ago he wouldn't be attending the convention in Tampa, where former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney will be formally nominated as the party's presidential candidate.
For Brooks, though, Bush's presidency represented better times for America's economy. Bush had seen unemployment drop from a high during his term of 6 percent in 2003 to 4.5 percent in November 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, when the Democratic Party won control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Brooks, who was first elected to Congress in 2010, saw that 2006 shift in power as a key moment in an unemployment rate that rose to a high of 10 percent in October 2009 and currently sits at 8.3 percent.
"The economy started going south when the Democrats took over House and Senate," Brooks said in an interview with The Times last week.
And once Barack Obama won the White House four years ago as a Democrat, the economy didn't rebound, Brooks said. That creates the sense of urgency for the GOP and Romney in the spotlight of the convention this week as polls indicate the presidential race is essentially a toss-up at this point.
"The greatest threat to America as a nation is the philosophy of government espoused by Barack Obama and his allies," Brooks said. "There is no greater threat to America. What they believe in will weaken America from within.
"So we are going to Tampa to rally our troops, to help America understand how grave this threat is and how important this presidential election is. It's a pivot point for our country."
As Brooks discussed the convention, he again invoked "socialism" - a buzzword Brooks has spoken often during his first term in Congress when speaking of the economic plan backed by the Democratic Party.
"This is a historic convention," Brooks said. "We have two clear paths between diametrically opposing philosophies of government - predominantly free enterprise versus socialism.
"Those of us who believe in free enterprise know that socialism is a failed economic model that would result in the decline of America and, ultimately, would pose a threat to national security as we lost the ability to pay for what has been the world's best military in seven decades."
Brooks said socialism shouldn't be equated with communism. Instead, he said socialism is simply a failed economic model when contrasted with the free enterprise model.
"Neither model is inherently good or evil," Brooks said. "It's just that one works, and the other doesn't."
As for Brooks' role in his first convention as a congressman, it will be primarily behind the scenes.
"I'm going to be interacting with a lot of different people, delegates, congressmen, senators, people who have interest in various pieces of legislation that are in Washington," he said.
"It's a time to get together with, generally speaking, people of like minds and to come out rejuvenated to do what we need to do to stop the damage that Barack Obama has done to America - stop it and reverse it."