by Charles Lemos, Wed Sep 08, 2010 at 08:01:30 PM EDT
Over the Labor Day weekend in Milwaukee and again today outside Cleveland, President Obama delivered a strong defense of his presidency as he outlined a new $50 billion infrastructure investment proposal and a $100 billion proposal that will permanently extend research and development tax credits for businesses as part of his economic recovery program. The President also called for an end to the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, saying the country cannot afford $700 billion in tax breaks that benefit “millionaires and billionaires.”
The speech was vintage Obama. As he had forewarned earlier this summer during his television appearance with the ladies of The View, the President can "politick" very well. Helene Cooper of the New York Times termed the speech a "sharply populist speech that sought to appeal to the middle class" in which the President also "urged voters not to allow Republicans to 'ride' fears about the economy into the election booths in the midterm elections in November." Over at The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder exalted that the President had written "his thesis statement."
Policy messaging, large framing opportunities, telling stories -- still relies on direct communication from a president to the people without a self-selected content or media filter. Oval Office speeches, press conferences, policy proposals sold as policy proposals -- this is the stuff of getting from point A to point B. It's not complicated. It's not ornamentalized. It's not focused grouped. It's what Americans expect from their president -- that is... it's work. He's working. This is how a president works. He tells people what he is going to do and how he does it.
When it comes to fixing the economy, people want to know: What is he for? They don't want to know: who is he? They know who he is.
Where is the thesis statement?
That's what this week is about.
The president is for a set of tax cuts for businesses and spending that would step up the pace of the economic recovery. In doing so, he's given Democrats something to run on. As much as the party wants to localize races, they're still Democrats, and President Obama is still their leader. Now, he's given them some bread. The Republicans want to freeze all spending and tax cuts. The Democrats want to cut these taxes and spend more. John Boehner, a relative unknown to the American people, took the bait this morning by offering an immediate counter-proposal. So now, Democrats have the beginning of what could credibly be called a message: here's what we're going to do. And here's what they're going to do. Do you trust them?
If the Democrats are destined to lose the House, then this presidential declarative is probably too late for political strategists. But -- and be honest here -- strategists are going to complain about anything the president does so long as his approval rating remains under 50%. But for whatever reason, or perhaps by design, President Obama's advisers now recognize that the November election IS a referendum on what the president is doing as much as it is a choice between two parties.
I think Marc is generally right. The issue is I have is that this "thesis" should been have first expounded in February 2009 and not as we approach the 20 month mark of Obama's presidency.
Still for me personally it is very reassuring, however belatedly, to hear that the President has come to recognize that the Republican game plan for what it is, for what it has always been, and for what it always be:
Look, I recognize that most of the Republicans in Congress have said no to just about every policy I’ve proposed since taking office. I realize in some cases that there are genuine philosophical differences. But on issues like this one -- a tax cut for small businesses supported by the Chamber of Commerce -- the only reason they’re holding this up is politics, pure and simple. They’re making the same calculation they made just before my inauguration: If I fail, they win. Well, they might think that this will get them to where they want to go in November, but it won’t get our country going where it needs to go in the long run. It won’t get us there.
It is especially noteworthy that the President noted he realized that GOP made their calculation before he was inaugurated. The GOP narrative on Obama is the one now generally holds currency across much of America and where the President failed was not in his policies, even with those that progressives may find wanting, but his remarkable adherence to seek bipartisan solutions for the sake of bipartisan solutions coupled with his even more remarkable to aversion to the blood sport side of politics that allowed the narrative that Obama was some sort of big government socialist intent on destroying American capitalism. At any rate, it is a pleasure to see and hear the politicking populist back in fine form.
Here's hoping it lasts beyond November. Because if the GOP does retake one or both houses of Congress this fall, political gridlock is all but a certainty. In fact, some elements in the GOP want nothing more. They'll destroy the country in their zeal to prove already discredited economic prescriptions. But one has to realize that when it comes to much of the GOP, their politics is faith based. They believe what they believe in spite of the empirical evidence to contrary. They believe that to place limits on economic man is to restrict the freedoms of political man and they don't care if they sentence 80 percent of Americans to perpetual poverty in the process.
The text of the President's speech is beneath the fold.