The Cuomo Cop-Out
On Wednesday, around noontime, during a year-end cabinet meeting called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, officials in his administration announced that they had decided not to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, anywhere in the state.
Despite the potential economic benefits of drilling for natural gas, the governor’s environmental commissioner, Joe Martens, and his health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, concluded that the health and environmental risks were too high. Cuomo, for his part, claimed — implausibly — that he had played no role in the decision. “I am not a scientist,” he said, maintaining that he had merely taken the advice of his experts.
A few hours later, a state board approved the building of three casino complexes, the largest of which would be located in the old Catskills borscht belt. After the announcement, Cuomo put out an ebullient statement saying that these projects will “create thousands of local jobs, drive economic development in surrounding communities,” et cetera.
Anyone who cares about the economic viability of New York State should be troubled by these two decisions. It is fracking — despite risks — that has the potential to boost struggling communities, by providing well-paying, middle-class jobs. Casinos, meanwhile, are a road to nowhere. The Cuomo administration got it exactly backward.
Let’s look at the gambling industry first. Although Albany appears not to have noticed, the industry is in deep trouble, especially in the Northeast, which is saturated with casinos. Four Atlantic City casinos have shut down this year. The second-largest casino in Atlantic City, the Taj Mahal, is staying open only because of a cash infusion by Carl Icahn, the financier. Both of the American Indian-run casinos in Connecticut are flirting with bankruptcy. Meanwhile, New Jersey and Massachusetts have plans to build yet more casinos.
“He’s 15 years too late,” the longtime gambling analyst Harold Vogel told The Times in August, referring to Cuomo’s plans.
And it’s not as if there’s no gambling in New York, which has nine “racinos” — essentially slot machines at racetracks — and five smaller casinos. “A successful casino should bring in lots of outsiders,” said Richard McGowan, a Boston College economist and industry expert. But the new casinos in New York won’t do that; they’ll mainly attract locals, while siphoning off revenue and jobs from other gambling spots. “Maybe that’s O.K.,” said McGowan, “but I don’t think they’re going to be an economic engine.”
Which brings me to fracking. In his remarks, Martens pooh-poohed the potential economic gains in New York, noting that more than 60 percent of the Marcellus Shale — the rock formation most likely to yield large deposits of natural gas for the state — has already been declared a no-fracking zone, either for environmental reasons, such as being too close to a watershed, or because communities had voted to ban fracking.
But that still leaves nearly 40 percent of the shale, which runs through the southernmost counties — such as Broome, Tioga and Chemung — to explore. These are some of the most depressed areas of New York State, where jobs are scarce and hope is hard to come by. As of this summer, only one community in any of these counties had voted against fracking.
Indeed, they look across the border into Pennsylvania and they see areas that were once just as depressed, but have been economically rejuvenated thanks to fracking. In Pennsylvania,the average salary for someone in the oil and natural gas industry is more than $80,000 a year. More than $600 million has been distributed to landowners for drilling rights, according to the American Petroleum Institute. When you add in taxes generated, ancillary jobs, and the like, you have everything the southern tier of New York lacks.
Is fracking completely safe? Of course not. But it is worth pointing out that many of the scientific studies examined by New York State are not so much damning as they are inconclusive. There is still much science to be done. The industry needs to be more transparent. States and the federal government need to make sure fracking is regulated properly. All true.
But very little in life is completely safe. Instead of banning fracking, New York could have established a pilot program to see if it could safely regulate fracking, as other states are trying to do, and at least give people some hope. In rejecting fracking, Zucker said that he was guided by whether he would let his family live near fracking. “The answer is no,” he said. Long-term unemployment is also a scourge families would like to avoid.
And then there is Cuomo’s statement that his decision was guided by his experts. What a cop-out. He gets to please his liberal base, abandon the southern part of his state and then wash his hands of the decision.
Whatever that is, it’s not leadership.
“We’re just falling apart in the Southern Tier,” [David] Johnson said. “I make a living from people coming to my farm. But we’re losing population. The people who are left have less money to spend. Every year my business decreases. We try new things, I raise prices, but the trend continues no different from any other industry in the Southern Tier.”
Focus group rejects Obama and GOP challengers
HOWARD WILKINSON’S POLITICS COLUMN
9:19 PM, Oct. 29, 2011
The polls show it; the talking heads of cable TV say it; the feeling in the air is that this is a president in trouble, a president who came in with high expectations; and, wrongly or rightly, is perceived by many Americans has having failed to live up to those expectations.
But there is nothing that drives the point home more starkly than hearing it directly from the mouths of voters – regular folks who struggle with a stagnant economy, folks whose immediate concern is not who is up or down in the polls but what kind of America their children and grandchildren will inherit.
Monday night, at a marketing research firm in Symmes Township, I heard first-hand from 12 of them, chosen by Washington-based Peter Hart, a pollster who has been researching the psyche of American voters for 40 years.
They were blunt and sometimes brutal in their assessments of the president and the Republicans who want to replace him. Disappointing, weak, unprepared to be president, some said of Obama.
The would-be presidents fared little better. Mitt Romney: Pretty boy, pompous. Rick Perry was described as a bully and a blowhard. And while Herman Cain had his admirers, not one of the 12 could say that they could picture him in the most powerful office in the world.
And what I heard tells me three things – that there is great disappointment with President Obama (in a state he must win if he has any chance of being a two-term president), serious questions and doubts about the field of Republican contenders, and deep concern about the direction in which the country is headed.
The focus group of 12 citizens from Hamilton, Butler and Warren counties that Hart brought together Monday night was part of project Hart is conducting for the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
There were a dozen people on the other side of that window. There were six men and women, between the ages of 22 and 75. Four describe themselves as Republicans or independents who lean to Republican candidates. Four said they were Democrats, or lean to the Democratic Party. And four describe themselves as “strictly independent.”
Seven of the 12 said they have someone in their immediate families who has been laid off from a job.
In 2008, eight of them voted for Barack Obama; only four voted for Republican nominee John McCain.
Monday night, when Hart asked the question if they would vote for President Obama in 2012, only four said they would. A fifth said he probably would.
Their takes on the first three years of the Obama presidency were fascinating – and troubling, if you work for the Obama campaign.
Hart asked each to give a one or two word response to what kind of president Obama has been.
The answers were generally not good: Frustrating. Challenged. Doesn’t take charge. Short-sighted. Lack of leadership.
As the discussion moved on, the complaints about President Obama became more specific.
“Let’s be honest here,” said George Palmer, a 59-year-old Democrat from West Chester who voted for Obama. “Sometimes you just have to say, ‘I’m the president; I’m in charge and this is what I am going to do.’ Yes, you have to play with the other side, but you have to take charge. That’s what I want to see him do.”
Tim Clark, a 42-year-old Republican from Blue Ash said that while he did not vote for Obama, “I thought in the first two years, he had the support in Congress and he just didn’t get it done.”
Ryan Lyles, a Democratic-leaning independent from Colerain Township and the only African-American on the panel, called the Obama presidency “frustrating.”
“When I say frustrating, it’s not just about (Obama),” Lyles said. The president, he said, faces a situation where it is clear the Republicans in Congress aren’t going to work with him.
“There is no leadership,” said Lisa Cedrone, a 47-year-old school nurse from Mason and an independent who voted for Obama. “I think he thought the job would be easier than it is.”
Cedrone was not one of those who said she would vote for Obama again, but she said that there is no GOP candidate “who intrigues me. There is nobody about whom I say, ‘wow, I want to know more.”’
Melissa Kasch, a 39-year-old homemaker from Trenton and an independent who voted for Obama, probably won’t do so again.
“We thought things were going to be better,” Kasch said. “We thought there would be change, but it was change for the worse.”
But as much disappointment and dissatisfaction there was with the president, there was just as much doubt about the GOP candidates among the focus group members likely to vote Republican next year.
Nearly all the Republicans and Republican-leaners had good things to say about Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza who now sits atop the Quinnipiac Poll among Ohio GOP voters.
The phrases they shot out about Cain were mostly positive:Interesting. Intelligent. Would be a good guy to have as a neighbor. To the point. Everyday guy. Hard worker.
“He’s Main Street, not Wall Street,” 75-yearold Becky Leighty, a Republican from West Chester, said of Cain.
But when Hart asked them to raise their hands if they would like to see Cain in the White House, not a single hand shot up.
Only Jennifer Sharm, a 43-year-old independent from Loveland who voted for John McCain in 2008, said later that she might be able to see a Cain presidency.
“I would feel as comfortable with him as president as Obama,” Sharm said.
Three said they were leaning toward supporting Cain; one said he was leaning toward Texas congressman Ron Paul and one said she was leaning toward Romney.
Hart asked for one-word reactions to other GOP candidates.
For Romney:Movie star. Good lucking, High-powered salesman. Pompous. Chameleon.
For Texas governor Rick Perry, the reaction among Republicans was not good: Good ol’ boy, blowhard, bully.
Asked what kind of next-door neighbor Perry would be, Sydney Mathis, a Democrat from Springfield Township, said “he wouldn’t be on the (neighborhood) casserole committee and I would have to move.”
But as interesting as their feelings about the candidates were, the opinions expressed about the state of the nation and the perception of national politics were just as interesting, if not more so.
They were frustrated with the contentious atmosphere in Washington, the gridlock, the partisan sniping at the expense of getting things done.
“The contentiousness is building and building and people are getting to the point where they don’t think they can trust anyone in politics,” Sharm said.
There is the perception, Cedrone said, that politicians in Washington “say what they think you want to hear.”
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the focus group was not what was said, but how these 12 people said.
There was no name calling. No vitriol. No one side accusing the other side of horrible intentions or raining ruin down on the nation.
Just 12 Americans, in a room, speaking calmly and seriously about a monumental decision they will have to make about one year from now.
And wishing the politicians would do the same.
Republicans seem far more excited to vote in next year’s presidential elections than Democrats are, suggesting the same sort of enthusiasm gap that pushed the GOP to big gains in the 2010 elections.
The numbers were part of the latest CNN-ORC International poll that found 62 percent of self-identified Republicans were extremely or very enthusiastic about voting for president, while only 48 percent of Democrats said the same thing.
Independents, meanwhile, are the least eager, with just 39 percent saying they’re excited to vote, and a whopping 21 percent saying they’re “not at all enthusiastic.”
Faced with reports of faltering support among Democrats, Mr. Obama’s backers have insisted he will win the overwhelming majority of their votes next year, and the CNN poll found that Democrats do overwhelmingly want the president renominated. Republicans, meanwhile, remain less satisfied with their choices for nominee.
But the enthusiasm gap suggests that the GOP’s voters are more motivated to actually turn out next year, which could hurt Mr. Obama if the vote is tight.
Black Voters’ Support for Obama Is Steady and Strong
By HELENE COOPER
Published: October 26, 2011
The question now for the Obama campaign is whether it can energize those voters — many of whom were drawn to the polls for the first time in 2008 by the historic nature of his candidacy coupled with an aggressive registration program — even with a rate of joblessness among blacks that far exceeds national figures.
President Obama’s base of support remains solid heading into 2012
“The Rev.” Al Sharpton. Fried Dried and Laid to the Side. Tawana Brawley.
Obama partisans can shake the flag of success regarding the deaths of bin-Laden and Khadaffi, the mad dog of Libya, along with the withdrawal from Iraq, but unemployed voters, especially Baby Boomers, will not include these events in their who to vote for calculus next November.
Mitt Romney – John Kerry without a disguise. “Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles…”
“I purchased a gun when I was a young man. I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.” Romney’s campaign later said he’d been hunting twice, once when he was 15, and once in 2006 at a Republican fundraiser.
Mitt Romney reaches out to voters but often lacks the common touch
This was Romney’s moment to make the case that he is the substantive one, the electable one, to tell Republican voters that Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain and Rick Perry may be the candidates they love but that Mitt Romney is the president they need. And that that is why they should love him, too.
But Romney didn’t. Instead, he queued up his talking points — that he will be back again, hopes to win here, but will campaign everywhere. He quickly turned to a stump-speech standby, about how Obama once said he would be looking at a one-term proposition if he couldn’t fix the economy. “I’m here to collect,” Romney said.
Drift until the next election. Biden in 2016…?
Facts about President Obama confirm that there is no leadership in this country.
Obama Calls Wall Street Bonuses ‘Shameful’
Obama & Wall St.: Still Venus & Mars
Obama still flush with cash from financial sector despite frosty relations
By Dan Eggen and T.W. Farnam, Published: October 19
Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data.
Obama’s key advantage over the GOP field is the ability to collect bigger checks because he raises money for both his own campaign committee and for the Democratic National Committee, which will aid in his reelection effort.
As a result, Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. The numbers show that Obama retains a persistent reservoir of support among Democratic financiers who have backed him since he was an underdog presidential candidate four years ago.
Obama’s fundraising advantage is clear in the case of Bain Capital, the Boston-based private-equity firm that was co-founded by Romney, and where the Republican made his fortune. Not surprisingly, Romney has strong support at the firm, raking in $34,000 from 18 Bain employees, according to the analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
But Obama has outdone Romney on his own turf, collecting $76,600 from Bain Capital employees through September — and he needed only three donors to do it.
The battle for Wall Street cash has become a crucial subtext in the 2012 campaign, which is shaping up to focus heavily on federal banking and markets policies and the struggling economy.
Top Republicans have courted major U.S. bank executives and financiers, arguing that Obama’s policies have hurt them, while Democrats are seeking to turn the erosion of support on Wall Street to their populist advantage.
Channeling ‘Occupy’ anger
Obama’s ties to Wall Street donors could complicate Democratic plans to paint Republicans as puppets of the financial industry, particularly in light of the Occupy Wall Street protests that have gone global over the past week.
In response to the protests, the Obama campaign and other Democrats have stepped up their attacks on Romney and other Republicans for their opposition to Wall Street regulations.
One top banking executive who raises money for Obama, discussing fundraising efforts on the condition of anonymity, said reports of disaffection with the president “are exaggerated and overblown.” He said a strong contingent of financiers in New York, Chicago and California remains supportive of Obama and his economic policies, even as some have turned on him.
But, this donor added, “it probably helps from a political perspective if he’s not seen as a Wall Street guy.”
Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the former Massachusetts governor’s success in the financial sector is evidence of the business community’s confidence in him as well as its unhappiness with Obama.
Donors support Romney because of “the state of the economy and the president’s failure to create jobs,” she said. “President Obama and his campaign will say anything to distract voters from his failed economic record.”
Obama Backers Tied to Lobbies Raise Millions
WASHINGTON — Despite a pledge not to take money from lobbyists, President Obama has relied on prominent supporters who are active in the lobbying industry to raise millions of dollars for his re-election bid.
SPIN METER: Obama’s disconnect in jobs sales pitch
By ERICA WERNER
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — In President Barack Obama’s sales pitch for his jobs bill, there are two versions of reality: The one in his speeches and the one actually unfolding in Washington.
When Obama accuses Republicans of standing in the way of his nearly $450 billion plan, he ignores the fact that his own party has struggled to unite behind the proposal.
When the president says Republicans haven’t explained what they oppose in the plan, he skips over the fact that Republicans who control the House actually have done that in detail.
And when he calls on Congress to “pass this bill now,” he slides past the point that Democrats control the Senate and were never prepared to move immediately, given other priorities. Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on opening debate on the bill, a month after the president unveiled it with a call for its immediate passage.
To be sure, Obama is not the only one engaging in rhetorical excesses. But he is the president, and as such, his constant remarks on the bill draw the most attention and scrutiny.
The disconnect between what Obama says about his jobs bill and what stands as the political reality flow from his broader aim: to rally the public behind his cause and get Congress to act, or, if not, to pin blame on Republicans.
He is waging a campaign, one in which nuance and context and competing responses don’t always fit in if they don’t help make the case.
For example, when Obama says his jobs plan is made up of ideas that have historically had bipartisan support, he stops the point there. Not mentioned is that Republicans have never embraced the tax increases that he is proposing to cover the cost of his plan.
Likewise, from city to city, Obama is demanding that Congress act (he means Republicans) while it has been clear for weeks that the GOP will not support all of his bill, to say the least. Individual elements of it may well pass, such as Obama’s proposal to extend and expand a payroll tax cut. But Republicans strongly oppose the president’s proposed new spending and his plan to raise taxes on millionaires to pay for the package.
The fight over the legislative proposal has become something much bigger: a critical test of the president’s powers of persuading the public heading into the 2012 presidential campaign, and of Republicans’ ability to deny him a win and reap victory for themselves.
“He knows it’s not going to pass. He’s betting that voters won’t pick up on it, or even if they do they will blame Congress and he can run against the ‘do-nothing Congress,’” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s School of Policy, Planning and Development.
John Sides, political science professor at George Washington University, said Obama’s approach on the jobs bill is “more about campaigning than governing.”
“He’s mostly just going around talking about this and drawing contrasts with what the Republicans want and what he wants and not really trying to work these legislative levers he might be able to use to get this passed,” Sides said. “That just suggests to me that he is ready to use a failed jobs bill as a campaign message against the Republicans.”
The president’s opponents aren’t exactly laying it all out, either.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to force a vote on the bill last week, innocently claiming that the president was entitled to one. McConnell knew full well that the result would be failure for the legislation and an embarrassment for Obama.
House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, claimed that Obama has “given up on the country and decided to campaign full-time” instead of seeking common ground with the GOP. But Boehner neglected to mention that Obama’s past attempts at compromise with Republicans often yielded scant results, as Obama himself pointed out.
The approach for Obama, who is seeking a second term in a dismal economy, is far different than the one he took when running for president. He criticized the GOP then, but talked about ending blue-state and red-state America, replacing it with one America, fixing the broken political system, and fundamentally changing Washington.
That ended up being change he could not bring about, and now analysts say Obama may have little choice but to campaign more narrowly by attacking opponents rather than trying to bring people together.
Obama’s attempts at compromise with the GOP on the debt ceiling and budget won him little in the way of policy, instead engendering frustration from Democrats who saw him as caving to Republican demands.
The new, combative Obama isn’t looking for compromise. He’s looking for a win. And if he can’t get the legislative victory he says he wants, he has made clear that he’s more than willing to take a political win.
It is, he acknowledges, a result his campaign for his jobs bill is designed to achieve.
Talking up the bill in an appearance last month with African-American news websites, Obama said: “I need people to be out there promoting this and pushing this and making sure that everybody understands the details of what this would mean, so that one of two things happen: Either Congress gets it done, or if Congress doesn’t get it done, people know exactly what’s holding it up.”
Aimless Obama walks alone
Last Updated: 3:45 AM, October 9, 2011
Posted: 2:49 AM, October 9, 2011
The reports are not good, disturbing even. I have heard basically the same story four times in the last 10 days, and the people doing the talking are in New York and Washington and are spread across the political spectrum.
The gist is this: President Obama has become a lone wolf, a stranger to his own government. He talks mostly, and sometimes only, to friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett and to David Axelrod, his political strategist.
Everybody else, including members of his Cabinet, have little face time with him except for brief meetings that serve as photo ops. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner both have complained, according to people who have talked to them, that they are shut out of important decisions.
The president’s workdays are said to end early, often at 4 p.m. He usually has dinner in the family residence with his wife and daughters, then retreats to a private office. One person said he takes a stack of briefing books. Others aren’t sure what he does.
If the reports are accurate, and I believe they are, they paint a picture of an isolated man trapped in a collapsing presidency. While there is no indication Obama is walking the halls of the White House late at night, talking to the portraits of former presidents, as Richard Nixon did during Watergate, the reports help explain his odd public remarks.
Obama conceded in one television interview recently that Americans are not “better off than they were four years ago” and said in another that the nation had “gotten a little soft.” Both smacked of a man who feels discouraged and alienated and sparked comparisons to Jimmy Carter, never a good sign.
Blaming the country is political heresy, of course, yet Obama is running out of scapegoats. His allies rarely make affirmative arguments on his behalf anymore, limiting themselves to making excuses for his failure. He and they attack Republicans, George W. Bush, European leaders and Chinese currency manipulation — and that was just last week.
The blame game isn’t much of a defense for Solyndra and “Fast and Furious,” the emerging twin scandals that paint a picture of incompetence at best.
Obama himself is spending his public time pushing a $450 billion “jobs” bill — really another stimulus in disguise — that even Senate Democrats won’t support. He grimly flogged it repeatedly at his Thursday press conference, even though snowballs in hell have a better chance of survival.
If he cracked a single smile at the hour-plus event, I missed it. He seems happy only on the campaign trail, where the adoration of the crowd lifts his spirits.
When it comes to getting America back on track to economic growth, he is running on vapors. Yet he shows no inclination to adopt any ideas other than his own Big Government grab. His itch for higher taxes verges on a fetish.
Harvey Golub, former chairman of American Express, called the “jobs” bill an incoherent mess. Writing in The Wall Street Journal, he said that among other flaws, the bill includes an unheard of retroactive tax hike on the holders of municipal bonds.
“Many of us have suspected that economic illiterates were setting the economic policy of this administration,” Golub wrote, adding that the bill “reveals a depth of cluelessness that boggles the mind.”
The public increasingly shares the sentiment. A new Quinnipiac polls finds that 55 percent now disapprove of Obama’s job performance, with only 41 percent approving. A mere 29 percent say the economy will improve if the president gets four more years.
The election, unfortunately, is nearly 13 months away.
The way Obama’s behaving, by then we’ll all be talking to portraits of past presidents, asking why this one turned out to be such a flop.
the 2012 campaign takes shape, because it is pushing him toward a reelection strategy that embraces the narrow-cast politics he once rejected as beneath him. Now he is focused on securing the support of traditional Democratic allies — minorities, gays, young people, seniors, Jews — rather than on making new friends, which was the revolutionary approach he took in 2008, when millions of first-time voters cast their ballots for his promise of change.
This essay is based on conversations with people inside and outside the White House since March 2009, when I began covering the Obama administration. One of the first things that struck me in those early days was just how much the mythology of that against-the-odds campaign guided the new administration’s approach to governing. The idealism of 2008 infused the White House — as it did a popular president who had relied on new methods of outreach and communication, not on old Washington and its enervating ways, to win.
In the first two years, the phrase I heard often in the White House was “Good policy makes for good politics.” Even then, the principle seemed based on a naive reading of a hyperpartisan capital.
Obama’s policy-first approach diminished the importance of people — people on Capitol Hill and along K Street, let alone throughout the country — in pushing through his program and providing the White House with valuable intelligence. Whether it was a matter of giving the American public too much credit or not enough remains an open question for many inside the administration.
The president’s supreme confidence in his intellectual abilities and faith in the power of good public policy left the political advisers and policymakers in his White House estranged. The initiatives that have emerged have often been unpopular and unsatisfying — too small, too big, too beside the point — to a country consumed by economic uncertainty.
Obamamatics who once supported blindly the beanpole Illinois lawyer now are singing a different tune. Obama’s patent lack of empathy and his inability to translate rhetoric into action does not inspire confidence. The economic condition of our country, the 9/11 tragedy, are systemic failures of political and corporate leadership.
Any leader who relies upon himself for judgment and restricts the input of advisors, Jefferson Davis, sets him/herself up for probable failure.
One and Done?
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: September 3, 2011
ONE day during the 2008 campaign, as Barack Obama read the foreboding news of the mounting economic and military catastrophes that W. was bequeathing his successor, he dryly remarked to aides: “Maybe I should throw the game.”
On the razor’s edge of another recession; blocked at every turn by Republicans determined to slice him up at any cost; starting an unexpectedly daunting re-election bid; and puzzling over how to make a prime-time speech about infrastructure and payroll taxes soar, maybe President Obama is wishing that he had thrown the game.
The leader who was once a luminescent, inspirational force is now just a guy in a really bad spot.
His Republican rivals for 2012 have gone to town on the Labor Day weekend news of zero job growth, using the same line of attack Hillary used in 2008: Enough with the big speeches! What about some action?
Polls show that most Americans still like and trust the president; but they may no longer have faith that he’s a smarty-pants who can fix the economy.
Just as Obama miscalculated in 2009 when Democrats had total control of Congress, holding out hope that G.O.P. lawmakers would come around on health care after all but three senators had refused to vote for the stimulus bill; just as he misread John Boehner this summer, clinging like a scorned lover to a dream that the speaker would drop his demanding new inamorata, the Tea Party, to strike a “grand” budget bargain, so the president once more set a trap for himself and gave Boehner the opportunity to dis him on the timing of his jobs speech this week.
Obama’s re-election chances depend on painting the Republicans as disrespectful. So why would the White House act disrespectful by scheduling a speech to a joint session of Congress at the exact time when the Republicans already had a debate planned?
And why is the White House so cocky about Obama as a TV draw against quick-draw Rick Perry? As James Carville acerbically noted, given a choice between watching an Obama speech and a G.O.P. debate, “I’d watch the debate, and I’m not even a Republican.”
The White House caved, of course, and moved to Thursday, because there’s nothing the Republicans say that he won’t eagerly meet halfway.
No. 2 on David Letterman’s Top Ten List of the president’s plans for Labor Day: “Pretty much whatever the Republicans tell him he can do.”
On MSNBC, the anchors were wistfully listening to old F.D.R. speeches, wishing that this president had some of that fight. But Obama can’t turn into F.D.R. for the campaign because he aspires to the class that F.D.R. was a traitor to; and he can’t turn into Harry Truman because he lacks the common touch. He has an acquired elitism.
MSNBC’s Matt Miller offered “a public service” to journalists talking about Obama — a list of synonyms for cave: “Buckle, fold, concede, bend, defer, submit, give in, knuckle under, kowtow, surrender, yield, comply, capitulate.”
And it wasn’t exactly Morning in America when Obama sent out a mass e-mail to supporters Wednesday under the heading “Frustrated.”
It unfortunately echoed a November 2010 parody in The Onion with the headline, “Frustrated Obama Sends Nation Rambling 75,000-Word E-Mail.”
“Throughout,” The Onion teased, “the president expressed his aggravation on subjects as disparate as the war in Afghanistan, the sluggish economic recovery, his live-in mother-in-law, China’s undervalued currency, Boston’s Logan Airport, and tort reform.”
You know you’re in trouble when Harry Reid says you should be more aggressive.
If the languid Obama had not done his usual irritating fourth-quarter play, if he had presented a jobs plan a year ago and fought for it, he wouldn’t have needed to elevate the setting. How will he up the ante next time? A speech from the space station?
Republicans who are worried about being political props have a point. The president is using the power of the incumbency and a sacred occasion for a political speech.
Obama is still suffering from the Speech Illusion, the idea that he can come down from the mountain, read from a Teleprompter, cast a magic spell with his words and climb back up the mountain, while we scurry around and do what he proclaimed.
The days of spinning illusions in a Greek temple in a football stadium are done. The One is dancing on the edge of one term.’
The White House team is flailing — reacting, regrouping, retrenching. It’s repugnant.
After pushing and shoving and caving to get on TV, the president’s advisers immediately began warning that the long-yearned-for jobs speech wasn’t going to be that awe-inspiring.
“The issue isn’t the size or the newness of the ideas,” one said. “It’s less the substance than how he says it, whether he seizes the moment.”
The arc of justice is stuck at the top of a mountain. Maybe Obama was not even the person he was waiting for.