President Obama’s campaign is calling on supporters to grade its performance amid a difficult early June for his reelection bid against presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney…
The supporter survey comes on the heels of a difficult month for the president, which saw Obama’s team on the defensive over a still weak economy, a set-back for Democrats and labor groups in Wisconsin’s recall election, a strong fundraising month for rival Romney and increasing congressional anger over a series of national security leaks.
When Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden’s former top economist, began reviewing notes of President Obama’s press conference on Friday, he stopped cold when he read “the private sector is doing fine.”
“It caught my eye,” Bernstein told National Journal. Bernstein immediately fired off an email to the intern who took the notes to make sure it was accurate and not a rough or garbled translation. “I thought, ‘Did he really say that?'”
To his dismay, the intern wrote back that those were Obama’s words. Verbatim…
Asked would he have winced if he’d still been in the White House, Bernstein said: “I winced having not been in there.”
“The private sector is doing fine” may prove to be the pivotal moment for the 2012 campaign because of what it demonstrates about the president’s ideas as he heads into the fight of his life.
[T]he health of the private sector can’t be measured solely or even primarily by job creation. Most people, after all, haven’t gone through the horror of unemployment.
What they have gone through is a period in which they have almost no job mobility, and a period in which their wages haven’t grown much — even as the inflated cost of gas and food has eaten away at what little gain they have enjoyed.
And that doesn’t even get into the discomfiting anxieties that come with working in America in 2012 — the sense that many jobs are tenuous, that maybe your employer can get by with one worker instead of two and that the one who gets laid off will be you.
There’s a deeper issue here than just Obama being thoughtlessly glib about the slow-growth nature of the U.S. economic recovery…
The remark reveals the government-centered nature of Obama’s thinking. He just doesn’t give private enterprise very much thought, particularly when it comes to all the ways government can muck up the free enterprise system. To Obama, the private sector is always “doing fine,” so it really doesn’t matter if the public sector overloads it with too many taxes and too much regulation. The private sector? Oh, you means guys like Bain Capital who like to fire people.
No wonder there’s been so little sense of urgency by the Obama White House to cut the sky-high corporate tax rate or so little consideration given to the impact on small business of letting the Bush tax cuts expire. The private sector is “doing fine,” after all. Unintended consequences? What are those?
Even Obama has made noises about cutting the size of the government bureaucracy — the foundation, at the federal level, of Washington’s disconnected high life. Does he not mean it? If that’s supposed to happen, when? It clearly can’t happen when the country’s in recession, according to the president–which is why his original 2009 stimulus bill sought to preserve state and local government jobs. Now he’s telling us it can’t happen when the economy is recovering and the private sector is
doing fine growing at a modest pace. Is he really going to want to cut unneeded government jobs later, when the private sector really is “doing fine” and there’s lots of tax revenue to fund the fat-marbled government payroll? Why would he do that, if he sees government jobs as jobs, a good thing, the equivalent to private jobs. That he doesn’t say when he’d cut the jobs only reinforces the suspicion that he doesn’t want to cut them at all, ever.
That’s the legitimate fear Obama’s “gaffe” raises, anyway. It’s not a phony media-made story. It gets at a pretty fundamental point.
Anyway, the bigger problem with Obama’s press conference was that there wasn’t any news in Obama’s prepared remarks. This really makes me shake my head. If you’re going to call a press conference, you have to give beat reporters something new. New is the root of news. If you don’t say something new, a misstatement is bound to dominate, or an answer to an off-message question…
At bottom, then, the press conference reflected the general drift that Clift described. The White House doesn’t have an argument right now. Ever since the jobs report, Romney’s got all the momentum. The White House has tried but then dropped arguments, as I wrote earlier this week, and it sounds a little whiny and ineffectual when Obama urges Congress to pass something that everybody knows Congress isn’t going to pass. And by the way, he ought at least to say “Republicans,” not “Congress.” I’m sure there are risks associated with sounding too partisan, but to me, he has little choice but to lump Romney and the GOP Congress together.
A series of liberal favorites, culminating with former Obama environmental adviser Van Jones, took to the stage at the Rhode Island Convention Center to rally the Democratic base — and also to make clear that nearly four years after his election, Obama has not lived up to their expectations…
“We went from having a crush to feeling crushed,” he added, as the convention hall — which at about 1,500 activists was about half-full compared with where it stood during Warren’s address on Friday — responded with cheers and applause…
“We have a quandary,” Jones said Saturday night. “We know we’re supposed to be fired up, and we know we’re supposed to be ready to go. But we’re pissed off! We’re mad. And we have reason to be. … Somebody said, ‘I feel like I’m caught between Barack and a hard place.’”
Even more problematic for the president: With the election just five months away, some [liberals at Netroots Nation] are threatening not to donate money or time or even vote in November for the man who overwhelmingly ignited their passions and captured their imaginations four years ago.
“I want to be happy with him,” said Democrat Kristine Vaughan, a 45-year-old school psychologist from Canton, Ohio. “But I am finding that he has succumbed to the corporate influence as much as everyone else. I think he has so much potential to break out of that, but overall he has been a disappointment.”…
Most plan on voting for Obama and their gripes are not unlike what the White House has heard for much of the president’s term. But these left-leaning backers’ varying levels of enthusiasm could spell trouble for a president whose 2008 victory was fueled by a massive network of grass-roots volunteers and small-dollar donors. Polls show the president locked in a tight race that’s likely to be decided in several swing states where he scored narrow victories four years ago. Places like Ohio, Florida and Virginia are expected to be especially competitive, and Obama will need liberal supporters to both work on his behalf and turn out in droves on Election Day.
“He’s done a good job, but he could have done a lot better,” said Ed Tracey, 55, of Lebanon, N.H., who heads his local chapter of the group, Drinking Liberally.
“There’s no doubt that Obama has turned out to be a major enigma and disappointment,” [a liberal] historian told me. “He waged such a brilliant campaign, first against Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and then against John McCain in the general election. For a long time, I found it hard to understand why he couldn’t translate his political savvy into effective governance.
“But I think I know the answer now,” he continued. “Since the beginning of his administration, Obama hasn’t been able to capture the public’s imagination and inspire people to follow him. Vision isn’t enough in a president. Great presidents not only have to enunciate their vision; they must lead by example and inspiration. Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the individual. He and Ronald Reagan had the ability to make each American feel that the president cared deeply and personally about them.
“That quality has been lacking in Obama. People don’t feel that he’s on their side. Obama doesn’t connect. He doesn’t have the answers. The irony is that he was supposed to be such a brilliant orator. But, in fact, he’s turned out to be a failure as a communicator.”
“This was not a good week, though, for the president,” Schieffer said.
The surrogate, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat and the head of the Democratic Governors Association replied, “We’ve had better weeks. And [there’ll] be good weeks and bad weeks.”