It’s a tell-tale sign of the difficult situation he faces that President Obama is increasingly invoking his work ethic as a reason to re-elect him.
“I suspect that most people … would acknowledge that I’ve tried real hard, and we just haven’t gotten the kind of willingness on the part of Republicans to engage on a whole range of issues that I wish had happened,” Obama told WLWT-TV during a campaign swing through Ohio last Thursday.
In a campaign event in Atlanta, President Obama employed this argument on his behalf:
I’m not perfect and I’ll never be a perfect president but I told you that I’d always tell you what I thought, I’d always tell you what I believe and most importantly I told you I’d wake up every single day and fight as hard as I knew how for you. That I’d fight as hard as I knew how for all those folks who were doing the right thing out there. All those people who’ve kept the faith with this country and you know what? I’ve kept that promise. I have kept that promise. I believe in you. I hope you still believe in me.
These words, while banal (and somewhat plaintive), are also instructive. A general rule in politics is that when a chief executive says he hasn’t been a “perfect president,” it means he’s been dramatically less than perfect. It’s analogous to John Edwards claiming he hasn’t been a perfect husband.
In his remarks in New Hampshire yesterday, President Obama said this:
There are too many people out there who are struggling, too many folks out of work, too many homes that are still under water. Of course, we need to do better. The debate is not whether, it is how. How do we grow the economy faster? How do we create we create more jobs? How do we pay down our debt? How do we reclaim that central American promise that no matter who you are, you can make it here if you try?
Obama has framed the election in exactly the right way. The problem for the president is that in answering his questions—how do we grow the economy faster, create more jobs, pay down our debt, and reclaim the central promise of America—you could do worse than to say, “Do the opposite of what Obama has done.”
“You know, it’s fashionable right now for people to be cynical,” President Obama said during a campaign speech the other day.
We go in cycles like this and right now a lot of people are saying “Oh, America is doing terribly” and “What are we going to do?” Let me tell you something. There is no problem out there, no challenge we face that we do not have the capacity to solve. We are Americans and we are tougher than whatever tough times bring us. What is lacking right now is our politics, what’s lacking right now is that some of the worst impulses in our politics have been rewarded.
At the New Republic, Walter Kirn pinpoints one big problem with the incessant Obama dinner sweepstakes fundraisers:
The problem with these small-stakes lotteries that are currently clogging up our inboxes isn’t that they cheapen politics (it is what it is, especially lately) but that they reveal, in a depressing way that makes the whole enterprise seem almost futile, just how insanely expensive it has become. They offer as prizes places at power’s table that simply aren’t available to anyone but the odds-beating elect. They ritualize a sense of mass despair at ever achieving influence in normal ways, from getting somewhat but not filthy rich (R) to getting organized (D). Whatever they generate by way of cash or names and addresses for campaign mailing lists is canceled out by the cynicism they spread (or partake of and embody).
The raffles get at the heart of the question of why we donate to political campaigns. Small-money donors, the ones who are supposedly the targets of the dinner sweepstakes, aren’t contributing because of a desire for political influence (not that winning a raffle prize dinner would help much in that regard). Most people — even large donors — give to candidates because they believe in the political cause. A 2004 study by George Washington University found that zero percent of small-money donors who gave to President Bush did so because the contribution was tied to an event they wanted to attend. Two-percent of small-money donors gave to Sen. John Kerry for this reason. And this wasn’t affected by the size of the contribution — only one percent of large-money donors from each campaign were motivated by an event they wanted to attend.
As Alana noted earlier, back in September 2010, former President Bill Clinton – in making what at the time seemed like an effective case for Democrats – said this:
And [Republicans] say [Democrats] had 21 months, put us back in. The Democrats are saying something like this: Look, we found a big hole that we did not dig, and we didn’t get out of it in 21 months, but at least we quit digging. So, so, so, don’t go back in reverse. Give us two more years. If it doesn’t work you have another election in just two years, you can vote us all out then. But for goodness sakes, we quit digging don’t bring back the shovel brigade.
Here’s the thing, though: that “other election” isn’t just two years away any more. It’s now less than five months away. And I for one believe the standard set out by Bill Clinton is an entirely reasonable one. We’ve given the president 21 additional months to turn things around. And guess what? It’s still not working.
Bill Clinton may be shaping up to be the worst surrogate of all time. Not only has he pummeled President Obama’s campaign’s economic message in present time, he also managed to plant this ticking time bomb back in 2010 (h/t Joe Schoffstall):
And [Republicans] say [Democrats] had 21 months, put us back in. The Democrats are saying something like this: Look, we found a big hole that we did not dig, and we didn’t get out of it in 21 months, but at least we quit digging. So, don’t go back in reverse, give us two more years and if it doesn’t work you have another election in just two years, you can vote us all out then. But for goodness sakes, we quit digging, don’t bring back the shovel brigade.”
Barack Obama’s increasingly desperate struggle to win re-election is causing some of his worst traits to be put on display, including petulance and self-pity. The latest example occurred during a fundraiser in Baltimore, when the president said, “Because folks are still hurting right now, the other side feels that it’s enough for them to just sit back and say, ‘Things aren’t as good as they should be, and it’s Obama’s fault.’”
This is rich. No president in human history has quite equaled Obama when it comes to blaming others for his problems. And during the 2008 campaign, everything wrong with America could be laid squarely at the feet of President Bush. But now Obama, having presided over what at this stage must qualify as among the most inept presidencies in American history, is complaining because he’s being held accountable.
What is fairly astonishing in all this is the utter lack of self-awareness by the president. A jolting collision is occurring between his own self-conception (Obama views himself as a world-historical figure and Great Man) and the multiple and multiplying failures of his presidency. Obama appears incapable of processing the truth or coming to grips with reality. And so he’s spinning tales day after day, including his fantastic (and thoroughly discredited) claim that “Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years.”
Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg, James Carville and Erica Seifert issued a new memo late yesterday, warning the Obama campaign that its current strategy is doomed to fail. And they seem right about one thing: the Obama campaign is going to have a hard time convincing the public that the economy is on the path to recovery, especially with greater economic pitfalls looming.
The strategists argue that the Obama campaign should forget trying to make the case that the president’s economic policies are working. Instead, it should focus on its support and empathy for the middle class, and highlight how Mitt Romney’s policies would leave struggling Americans vulnerable during tough economic times:
It is elites who are creating a conventional wisdom that an incumbent president must run on his economic performance – and therefore must convince voters that things are moving in the right direction. They are wrong, and that will fail. The voters are very sophisticated about the character of the economy; they know who is mainly responsible for what went wrong and they are hungry to hear the president talk about the future. They know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand. They want to know the plans for making things better in a serious way – not just focused on finishing up the work of the recovery. …
But we underscore the sentiment they expressed in the postcards to the president they wrote at the end of the exercise: overwhelmingly, these voters want to know that he understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.
Yes, President Obama still dominates the Jewish vote, beating out Mitt Romney 64 percent to 39 percent, according to the newest Gallup poll. But considering that Obama racked up a whopping 78 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008, this is a significant dip for him.
Among Jews, Obama’s current 64 percent to 29 percent advantage compares with a 74 percent to 23 percent advantage before the election in 2008. Thus, he is running 10 points lower among Jewish registered voters than in 2008, which is five points worse than his decline among all registered voters compared with 2008.
These numbers aren’t just notable because of what they say about Obama — the Republican Jewish Coalition notes that Mitt Romney’s 29 percent support would be “the highest level of Jewish support for a Republican presidential candidate in 24 years.”
What’s wrong with the original Occupy movement? If you ask most people, you’ll probably get a variety of answers, ranging from the filth and squalor, to the mindnumbingly inane political slogans, to the mass criminal acts and the desecration of once-lush city parks.
But according to Adbusters — the occasionally anti-Semitic magazine that published the initial Occupy call-to-arms — the real problem is that the original Occupy movement has sold out. It’s becoming too commercialized and institutionalized, and what it needs now is a second generation movement with none of the bourgeois pretensions of the first (via Newsbusters):
Burned out, out of money, out of ideas… seduced by salaries, comfy offices, book deals, old lefty cash and minor celebrity status, some of the most prominent early heroes of our leaderless uprising are losing the edge that catalyzed last year’s one thousand encampments. Bit by bit, Occupy’s first generation is succumbing to an insidious institutionalization and ossification that could be fatal to our young spiritual insurrection unless we leap over it right now. Putting our movement back on track will take nothing short of a revolution within Occupy.
Here’s a model of the revolution that Adbusters envisions:
The new tone was set on Earth Day, April 22, in a suburb bordering Berkeley, California, when a dozen occupiers quietly marched a small crowd to a tract of endangered urban agricultural land, cut through the locked fence and set up tents, kitchens and a people’s assembly. Acting autonomously under the banner of Occupy, without waiting for approval from any preexisting General Assembly, Occupy The Farm was notable for its sophisticated preplanning and careful execution — they even brought chickens — that offered a positive vision for the future and engendered broad community support. While encampments across the world were unable to re-establish themselves on May Day, this small cadre of farm occupiers boldly maintained their inspiring occupation for nearly four weeks.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) is out with an ad that immediately jumps on President Obama’s statement earlier today that “the private sector is doing fine.” The president’s assertion raises the question–just what planet is Obama living on? And the RNC ad is a good one. But what this episode reveals are two things of more lasting significance.
The first is that at almost every level, the Republican Party in 2012 is sharper and better than the Republican Party in 2008. Campaigns develop a rhythm and pace of their own – and so far, the Romney campaign and the RNC are easily outdueling the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). We saw evidence of this earlier this week, when the GOP’s get-out-the-vote effort in Wisconsin far exceeded what the Democratic Party was able to do.
The other thing this clip highlights is that President Obama is a much different, and inferior, candidate to what he was four years ago.
The left’s response to the Wisconsin rout is that their ideas weren’t rejected, but they were simply outspent by a flood of corporate, special interest cash. And it’s true the anti-Walker forces were outspent — by roughly the same ratio as Barack Obama outspent John McCain in 2008 — but obviously if Gov. Scott Walker’s policies were as draconian and abhorrent as Democrats claim then no amount of money could win him the election.
Still, Democrats are bringing back all the old conservative boogeymen — the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, corporate spending, Citizens United — in an attempt to turn the Wisconsin loss into an Obama campaign fundraising ploy. The Hill reports:
In an email to supporters, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina called Tuesday’s outcome — and, more specifically, the super-PAC money spent on Walker — a “terrifying experiment.” …
Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, agreed with that sentiment, saying Democrats learned a similar lesson in 2010, when they lost a slew of seats to Republicans.
“In 2010, we did not lose the House to House Republicans,” Israel told The Hill. “We lost it to Karl Rove and the Koch brothers. In 2012, we did not lose the Wisconsin recall to Gov. Walker, we lost it to an 8-to-1 spending differential, most from out of the state.”
The Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, a bill that was ostensibly aimed at closing the fabled 77-cent-on-the-dollar pay gap between men and women in the workplace (and in reality aimed at helping Democrats increase the gender vote gap between them and Republicans next November). The bill failed mainly along party lines:
The Paycheck Fairness Act earned 52 votes in favor of proceeding to final consideration, short of the 60 votes necessary. Senate Republicans voted en masse against the measure, believing that it could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.
But Democratic senators spent the hours before the vote speaking about why the legislation is needed to protect women concerned with having lower pay rates than their male colleagues. No Republican lawmaker discussed the issue on the Senate floor ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
Last year, the New York Times ran a story on the phenomenon of good actors taking silly roles in bad movies. Fans generally assume the actors take those roles for the paycheck, but the story offered a different defense: it can actually help prove the skill of the actor: “The more preposterous the situation, the more impressive the feat of seeming to take it utterly seriously. There are other measures of excellence of course — emotional subtlety, psychological acuity, wit — but this kind of unwavering, fanatical commitment is surely a sign of greatness.”
Alas, despite his gift for triangulation and spin and near cameo in “The Hangover 2,” former President Bill Clinton fails this test. Handed a script too far from reality by the Obama campaign, Clinton just couldn’t go through with it. So he told CNN that Mitt Romney’s business career was “sterling,” that the folks at Bain do good work, and that Romney clearly “crosses the qualification threshold.” Then yesterday he declared his support for extending the Bush tax cuts (though he later said he meant only some of the Bush tax cuts). Some roles are just too preposterous–even for Bill Clinton.
Back in April I wrote, “My sense is that [Mitt Romney will] be a better general election candidate than he was a GOP primary candidate, that a contest against Obama will play to his strengths better than a contest against other Republicans. We’ll find out in due course. But if I were David Axelrod, I’d be concerned.”
As of now, that intuition seems to have been correct. As thisNew York Times article makes clear, Governor Romney has been on the offensive for most of May. “Mr. Romney is already running the campaign he and top aides say they envisioned more than a year ago,” according to the Times, “forcing Mr. Obama to defend his economic record in a gloomy environment.” The story goes on to report on the strengths of the Romney operation: discipline, efficiency and execution. In addition, according to the most recent CNN-ORC poll, Governor Romney’s favorable ratings have surged, having risen 14 points since February.
If the Romney campaign has shown itself far superior to the John McCain campaign, then the Obama campaign of 2012 has shown itself far inferior to the Obama campaign of 2008.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, the president was asked about the tone and tenor of the debate that’s going to take place during the campaign. Obama answered, in part, this way:
[The GOP’s] vision is that if there’s a sliver of folks doing well at the top who are unencumbered by any regulatory restraints whatsoever, that the nation will grow and prosperity will trickle down. The challenge that they’re going to have is: We tried it. From 2000 to 2008, that was the agenda. It wasn’t like we have to engage in some theoretical debate – we’ve got evidence of how it worked out. It did not work out well, and I think the American people understand that. Now, the burden on me is going to be to describe for the American people how the progress we’ve made over the past three years, if sustained, will actually lead to the kind of economic security that they’re looking for. There’s understandable skepticism, because things are still tough out there… The fact of the matter is that times are still tough for too many people, and the recovery is still not as robust as we’d like, and that’s what will make it a close election. It’s not because the other side has a particularly persuasive theory in terms of how they’re going to move this country forward.
So Obama wants a debate based not on theoretical claims but on empirical achievements.
Wonderful. Why don’t we accommodate the president?