Obama Reclaiming the Frame?

On the policy side of the President's jobs plan and "Buffet Tax" address this morning, reactions are mixed.  At FireDogLake, David Dayden likes the move away from the "grand bargain" territory and what appears to be an early goodbye to the super-committee, while John Walker sees the door to Medicare cuts still open.  Yglesias sees an open door with a line in the sand: not cuts to Medicare without revenue increases.  Aravosis thinks tying increases to even a hint at Medicare cuts is just dumb.  And Ezra Klein thinks the White House has learned it's lesson on chasing the "Compromiser in Chief" title: the public "gives no points for effort," they want results.

But the stand out moment for me was the change in frame in the address.  Bipartisanship/compromise/balance got the obligatory mentions, but overall the speech elludes to a wiser WH.  Via Josh Marshall:

I hope President Obama will keep hitting what I think was his strongest point in his Jobs Act speech. That is, either/or. We can have no new taxes ever for wealthy people or we can save Medicare. But not both.

Either/Or.

For the first time in a long while, Obama today at least hinted at an unwillingness to move his goal-posts closer to where Boehner has set his.  He grabbed the popular position, drew his base line a little more to the left, and reinforced it with a veto threat.  Baby steps.  Not shooting for the moon, but after 1 yr plus of reinforcing the GOP talking points on deficit reduction instead of focusing on jobs, this may be the only way out of the woods for the WH and what's left of the middle class.

I'm still skeptical the goal posts won't be moved a thousand times, especially if the possibility of having debt-ceiling circus redux months before the election scares them off the "either/or" theme (Joan McCarter: it shouldn't!), but today's speech was at least refreshing.

Also, Erica Payne and The Agenda Project, way ahead of them:

 

Misunderstanding the “Osama” Bounce

A number of Beltway pundits have remarked upon the effect that bringing justice to Osama bin Laden had on President Barack Obama’s approval ratings. The conventional wisdom is that Mr. Obama enjoyed a brief “Osama bounce” in polling. Now, with yet more bad economic news, Mr. Obama’s Osama bounce has faded.

This is a complete misunderstanding of what the killing of Osama bin Laden actually means for the president.

A “bounce” in one’s approval ratings is the result of a fleeting event which temporarily makes one look good, but which nobody will remember in a year. The political conventions that take place during every presidential election result in bounces. Modern political conventions make the presidential nominee look good, but nothing meaningful ever happens in them.

Another example of a bounce: Mr. Obama’s well-received speech after Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting. This was a fleeting event which temporarily made Mr. Obama look good. But the average American probably has already forgotten who Ms. Giffords even is. (Don’t believe me? Try testing your neighbor.)

In contrast, nobody will forget the death of Osama bin Laden for a long, long time. When the history books are written one hundred years later, they will still mention it.

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Politically, Bin Laden’s death means far more than just a mere “Osama bounce” for the president. It rips an enormous hole through the Republican critique of Mr. Obama on foreign policy.

This critique is best described by the titles of two articles by conservative magazines The Weekly Standard and The National Review. Their titles are “A Leader From Behind” and “The Embarrassed Superpower.” Republican criticize Mr. Obama as weak on national security, uninterested in American exceptionalism, too apologetic for America’s mistakes, and so on. It’s a very classical critique of any Democratic politician.

That Mr. Obama’s administration brought the Al-Qaeda leader to justice fundamentally works against these themes. How can one say that the president apologizes too much after Bin Laden’s death? How can one say that the president is too “soft” after he ordered one of the most macho operations in American history?

In essence, Bin Laden’s death has sealed off foreign policy as an avenue for the 2012 Republican nominee to criticize the president. Republicans will fight the 2012 presidential election on the economy and on domestic policy. They may win; they may lose. But due to his administration’s success in bringing the world’s number one terrorist to justice, Mr. Obama looks set to be pretty much invincible in the realm of foreign policy come 2012.

 

 

Jobs Speeches vs. Jobs Plans

I'm on board with those upset over the infuriating optics of the President asking for a speech, Republicans shouting we don't wanna, and the President backing downAgain.  First reaction, for some reason it riled me more than Democrats rolling over in the debt-ceiling debate.  Second, the win here was nil, save a few -- admittedly too rare -- headlines like "The President Actually Tells Republicans No."

Republicans don't want to detract from their debate.  Fine.  The President shouldn't want to detract from that debate either.  It's Rick Perry's big moment, and smart money says that's comedy gold.  No one outside the beltway is going to care about the reschedule, or who looks like the adult in the room by next week.

In fact the speech itself will be a minor blip on the radar compared to any jobs plan itself, if -- a big if -- the President gets real.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, via LA Times:

Who knows what's politically achievable until we try?" Trumka said. "The president should articulate a solution of the size and scale necessary to solve the problem. We have a jobs crisis. … If you do only what you think the other side and the 'tea party' will agree to, then they control the agenda." 

[...]

For those worried about the deficit, Trumka insists that job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand.

"They complement one another," he said. "You want to get rid of the deficit? Put 25 million people back to work and you won't have a deficit problem."

Trumka gives the Times a detailed plan worth reading, but the point here is behind the details: Set the bar on a jobs plan as high as you can, and use that as a starting point. 

Just like was said in the stimulus debates.  And the health care debates.  And the Bush Tax Cuts debates.  And the debt ceiling "debates."  And...

Republicans will oppose and roll out the hyperbole cannons, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will say dumb things.   But economically this is a chance to set an agenda and begin addressing an actual problem.  Politically this is the Democrats' last chance before the 14 month circus is in full swing to reset the narrative ceded the GOP.

Voters have already reset, Republicans have shown their hand with Bush's Cantor's jobs plan deregulatory orgy which managed to be even more sucktastic than his last "jobs" plan.  It's not going to take a committee to find a more popular and effective first step:

Over much of the 20th century, America's strong infrastructure investment was a major factor attracting global corporations headquartered in other countries to invest and create jobs here. Rising U.S. standards of living were fueled by a strong infrastructure system that facilitated the growth of companies in America, both global and domestic alike: transportation systems to move people and products, electrical systems to power plants and offices, communications backbones to drive computers and creativity. By 2008, the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employed over 5.6 million Americans -- nearly 2 million in manufacturing -- and exported $232.4 billion in goods. That's 18.1% of America's total.

(h/t Think Progress)

Is Obama Playing Rope-a-Dope?

Here was the headline on Yahoo tonight: Obama bows to Boehner on jobs speech

I can tell you what any progressive who has been paying attention thought, "Oh boy, here we go again."

President Obama has now changed the day of his address to Congress to accomodate the Republicans. They were having a GOP presidential debate on the original date he picked. So, Boehner told him to move his speech. He is the president for Christ's sake. Of course, they should have accomodated him, not the other way around. But as usual, President Obama bowed.

So, this leads to the eternal question of whether Obama is just weak or if he is a brilliant strategist who has been playing rope-a-dope all along. I am so silly that I still had hope. My hope this morning was that Obama was laying a trap for the Republicans. He picks a day for his speech that is the same as the GOP debate. Then if Boehner says he won't let him give the speech on that day, he seems so petty and harsh.

That way, either the president gives his big speech on jobs and bigfoots the Republican contenders or the Republicans look disrespectful and petulant for turning down the president. Well, if you're playing rope-a-dope, that's not a bad manuever. But it turns out that's not what he was doing at all. He just stumbled into this problem and then stumbled out when he let Boehner dictate when he could and could not have his speech. That looks so sad.

You see, if you're playing rope-a-dope, at some point you have to actually swing. When your opponent has worn himself out knocking you around the ring -- you counter-attack. But that counter-attack is never coming. We're holding our collective breath in vain.

Why is this definitely not rope-a-dope? Because Obama hates risk. Even his most ardent supporters will tell you that he does not like to take big risks. He thinks it is imprudent. They see that as one of his strengths. McCain was a wild gambler, Obama was a cautious and smart poker player. That's why he won the election.

But would a man who dislikes risk that much risk his entire presidency on a strategy where he gets pummeled for three straight years and then finally comes out swinging at the very end? No way. That's a tremendous amount of risk. I don't mind taking plenty of risks and I wouldn't do anything half that crazy.

No, the answer is much simpler. He doesn't realize he's getting pummeled. He thinks this is all still a genius strategy to capture centrists by compromising on every single little thing. He is not trying to put on an appearnace of weakness to lull his opponent into a false sense of compacency. He doesn't even realize he is being weak. He's the one with the false sense of complacency. As he's getting knocked around the ring, he thinks he's winning.

These guys in the Obama camp are in for a horrible, rude awakening. Sometime in the next year, they are going to blink and realize they are lying flat on their back on the canvas. Then as they finally stumble up, they'll realize they should have started fighting 11 rounds ago. Then a panic will set in, but I'm afraid it will be too late by then.

Here is what all voters, and especially independents, despise and disdain in a politician -- weakness. Nobody wants to see their leader get beat to a pulp every night and then bow his head again.

There is no secret, brilliant strategy. This White House is in a bubble. They think they're winning when the roof is about to cave in.

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Don’t Overrate Barack Obama’s Campaign

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/ 

In the 2008 presidential election, Senator John McCain ran the better campaign.

This statement goes strongly against conventional wisdom. After all, President Barack Obama’s campaign is widely praised by the media for its masterful turn-out operation and other achievements. This is, of course, because Mr. Obama won the election. Winning candidates, by definition, are almost always considered to have run the better campaign. (Quick: name a losing politician who ran a better campaign than his opponent.)

In fact there were two things that propelled Mr. Obama to victory in 2008, and neither of them had to do with his campaign apparatus. The first was the political environment. Mr. Obama had the fortune of running after a two-term unpopular Republican administration. He did this, moreover, in the midst of a financial meltdown for which blame went to said administration. It’s hard to lose an election under those circumstances.

Secondly, Mr. Obama was a more attractive candidate than Mr. McCain. He was younger, he looked better on camera, he gave much better speeches. Mr. Obama had a magnetism that could attract crowds numbering greater than 100,000. His opponent simply didn’t have that.

But Mr. Obama’s campaign itself wasn’t actually that amazing. It was a fairly conservative operation that took things very safe. The campaign tried to be very cautious, avoiding any risky and exciting maneuvers. This happened under the principle that the senator probably was going to win anyways – so a boring, conventional campaign was much safer than a risky, unconventional one. It’s hard to fault his operation for this conclusion, because Mr. Obama did in fact win.

It was Senator John McCain’s campaign that took risks and made headlines. In many ways his campaign was better than Mr. Obama’s. It won more of the daily media battles until the financial crisis – and there was nothing it could really do about that. It ran better ads. How many Obama ads do you remember, for instance? What about McCain ads? I bet a lot of people remember this one.

Mr. McCain’s campaign also made the more memorable moves. It selected an unforgettable Vice Presidential nominee (in contrast, Mr. Obama once again took the safe route in picking Senator Joe Biden). It famously promised to suspend its campaign in the midst of the financial meltdown. Some of these moves worked; some of them didn’t. But they were very rational moves to take; there was simply no way Mr. McCain could have won in 2008 without taking enormous, risky gambles.

Mr. Obama’s campaign is widely credited for bringing many young and African-American voters to the polls who otherwise wouldn’t have shown up. But those voters came not because of the campaign, but because of Mr. Obama himself. If the entire campaign operation had remained the same, but Senator Barack Obama had been replaced by Senator John Kerry, how many of those people would have shown up?

The moral of this analysis is not to overrate the Obama campaign. There was a Democratic wave in 2008, and Mr. Obama’s campaign deserves credit for riding that wave with the help of a very gifted politician. But to say that ”Obama put together one of the most impressive campaign operations of all time” is a big exaggeration.

 

 

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