Obama’s Chicago-based brain trust had intended to highlight four years of “solid, steady progress” in the final days of the race, several Democrats told POLITICO, with a healthy dose of hammering Romney — a strategy that had given Obama a lead going into that fateful first debate.
Instead, the pressure is now on Obama to prove himself — and oh so late in the game. That led his campaign on Tuesday to release a detailed, bullet-point plan for his second term — a formal agenda his team had long resisted despite appeals from the likes of Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and James Carville, and an army of basic-cable liberals, who said the president needed to spend less time cutting down Romney and more time elevating himself…
“Maybe it’s not too late, but wouldn’t it have been cool to have a great document put out the day after the convention when everyone was riding really high, instead of now?” asked polling analyst Erica Seifert, who wrote several memos with Carville and Greenberg urging Obama to define his second-term agenda more clearly.
It’s almost certain that President Obama released his agenda, titled “The New Economic Patriotism,” the night before a Donald Trump blockbuster announcement designed to derail Obama’s reelection. He had to have been hoping dearly the Trump stink-bomb would take all the oxygen away from any second-day stories about the “plan for jobs and middle-class security” the campaign published. It’s not just that the plan is the first voters have heard of any Obama has for his second term — two weeks before Election Day — but that the brochure is about as cheesy a cheap shot as they come.
Unfortunately for Obama, Trump’s pathetic gambit failed to trump the headline that Obama is trying to pass off recycled retreads as new plans and that he was forced to do so after losing the first presidential debate to Mitt Romney, plunging in the polls and sending Democrats into a state of nauseated panic. How, they asked the campaign, could the president possibly win a second term in such a tight race without having outlined an agenda for the next four years? And so an eleventh-hour glossy appeared to answer the charge that Obama had nothing in mind for 2013-2017, with pretty pictures and pabulum to prove it. Brace yourself, the plans include a tax plan that cuts the deficit and creates jobs, energy made in America, a reminder of all that is good about ObamaCare, a pledge to stop Medicare or Social Security from being privatized, reviving manufacturing, investing in education and growing small businesses.
Why would the president wait until 14 days before the election, after the conventions and the debates, to release his plan? And then print 3.5 million copies of it, making the plan a publishing phenomenon to rival “Dreams from My Father”?
It’s the panicked realization that his campaign’s attempted destruction of Mitt Romney hasn’t worked and isn’t enough to win. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week found that 62 percent of people want major changes in a prospective Obama second term. Four percent — that’s almost down to Obama administration officials and immediate family — want more of the same.
So the president needed someone to get on QuarkXPress to paste together “a new plan” and then run down to FedEx Kinko’s — pronto. But he couldn’t hit print during debate season, lest he give his opponent another target. Surely Romney would have loved to cite the risible document as Exhibit A for Obama’s status-quo presidency.
Mr. Obama likes to say he inherited “the most severe economic emergency we’ve had since the Great Depression,” but then he claims that it didn’t matter that he staged a two-year fight to remake one-sixth of the economy and threatened to remake another four-sixths.
If recessions following financial crises really are worse than normal, as the President also told the Iowa editors, then why didn’t he take special care to postpone legislation that would add new costs to business, undermine confidence and thus weaken the recovery?
Mr. Obama didn’t really answer the Register’s question, so we will. He didn’t focus on the economy because he didn’t and still doesn’t understand how the private economy works. He doesn’t understand that incentives matter, or how government policies and regulation can sabotage growth. He really believes that government is the engine of economic prosperity.
Why was the first debate so toxic for the president? Because the one thing he couldn’t do if he was going to win the election is let all the pent-up resentment toward him erupt. Americans had gotten used to him as The President. Whatever his policy choices, whatever general direction he seemed to put in place he was The President, a man who had gotten there through natural gifts and what all politicians need, good fortune.
What he couldn’t do was present himself, when everyone was looking, as smaller than you thought. Petulant, put upon, above it all, full of himself. He couldn’t afford to make himself look less impressive than the challenger in terms of command, grasp of facts, size…
But maybe these questions are all off. Maybe what happened isn’t a mystery at all.
That, anyway, is the view expressed this week by a member of the U.S. Senate who served there with Mr Obama and has met with him in the White House. People back home, he said, sometimes wonder what happened with the president in the debate. The senator said, I paraphrase: I sort of have to tell them that it wasn’t a miscalculation or a weird moment. I tell them: I know him, and that was him. That guy on the stage, that’s the real Obama.
Click the image to watch.
“President Obama really hasn’t given us a vision for a second-term agenda. Just a couple of days ago he came up with a slick new brochure, you know, with less than two weeks left, to say, ‘Oh, I do actually have an agenda,’ ” Ryan said.
“It is a slick—well, comic book—that was his word,” the Wisconsin congressman repeated after a man in the crowd shouted out the suggestion. “To me, a slick repackaging of more of the same. And look at what it has gotten us.”