I’ve seen some amazing mental gymnastics in my time by people stretching and twisting in an attempt to build a political meme, but Frank Rich truly brings home the gold medal this weekend. Apparently unhappy with the president’s failure to sit in a corner and pout about having to work with Republicans this session, Rich trots out one of the most stinging insults he can find for Obama… he attempts to tie him to Ronald Reagan.
ANY lingering doubts about Barack Obama’s determination to appropriate Ronald Reagan’s political spirit evaporated just before the State of the Union. No American brand is more associated with Reagan than General Electric, and it was that corporation’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, who popped up as the president’s new wingman when the White House rolled out its latest jobs initiative on Jan. 21. Obama’s speech on Tuesday, with its celebration of the nation’s can-do capitalist ingenuity, moved him still closer to Reagan’s sweet spot as a national cheerleader. The president even offered a remix of the old Reagan-era G.E. jingle “We bring good things to life” — now traded up to the grander “We do big things.”
The rest of the column devolves into some sort of fever swamp imagining of how Bachmann, Palin and Beck control the universe, blah, blah, blah, but that lede section is worthy of note. Are we really to complain about Obama bringing Jeff Immelt into the fold, particularly considering how long we’ve been noting that none of the President’s inner circle had ever created a job beyond running a lemonade stand?
The extension of this to irrevocably tie General Electric to Reagan is also fairly comical. Yes, it’s true that Reagan, in his early career as an actor, hosted GE Theater and he was a paid spokesperson for the company. But it was a job. Actors do that.
Frank also puts on his detective hat and uncovers the damning secret that GE chooses to highlight Reagan’s early association with their company. Guess what? They are a business, just like any other, and they engage in marketing. It’s no surprise that they would seek to tie their brand to such a historically popular and charismatic figure as the Gipper.
Perhaps the most jaw dropping is the insider signal Rich picks up on, where Obama chooses to say, “We do big things.” Oh, yes. That’s exactly the same as, “we bring good things to life.” Apparently anyone who uses the words “we” and “things’ in the same sentence is engaging in secret code to compare themselves to General Electric and, thereby, the nation’s 40th president.
You know, on Friday my better half came back from shopping and asked me to bring the rest of her things in from the truck. Hey! My wife is just like Reagan!
Finally, if you’re going to criticize the president this year, is your best line of attack to try to compare him to Ronald Reagan? I can think of a lot worse figures. Perhaps if Mr. Rich chooses to go back to complimenting President Obama next month he could favorably compare him to Jimmy Carter.