Until now, Barack Obama has sent Joe Biden out to do all his talking on the economy, attempting to sell “Recovery Summer” while his boss vacations at Martha’s Vineyard, or hangs out with sports heroes, or, er, eats his shrimp. Unfortunately for the White House, the economic indicators over the past two months defy any spin whatsoever, especially this month, with home sales cratering and the second quarter GDP getting revised to stagnation levels. ABC News’ Jake Tapper hears that the White House figures that maybe the President of the United States should talk a little more himself about his economic policies … if they can figure out when to fit it in:
President Obama was largely invisible to the public, taking in 10 days of R&R in the posh Chilmark section of Martha’s Vineyard. When he re-emerges to the public on Sunday, he will be kicking off a series of high profile events that have little to do with the issue foremost on Americans’ minds: jobs. On Sunday the president will travel to New Orleans to commemorate the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. On Tuesday he will deliver only his second Oval Office address, discussing the withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq. On Wednesday and Thursday, he and his administration will focus on kick-starting peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week,” a White House official told ABC News, acknowledging the need for the president to talk about the issue on the minds of Americans in the midst of a schedule packed with events focused on other priorities. “We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”
The White House is pushing its $30 billion small business lending initiative and other measures to stimulate economic growth, such as the elimination of capital gains taxes for small business investments. But advisers say there is little appetite on Capitol Hill for any new spending programs, and limited time in the congressional calendar, suggesting that they feel there aren’t any more major initiatives the administration will push in further attempts to revise the sputtering economy. Voices inside and outside the administration are calling for a host of other remedies including more infrastructure spending and tax cuts.
The priorities of this administration are rather interesting. Instead of focusing on the crisis at hand, Obama wants to focus on the crisis from five years ago, no doubt to reinforce his PR strategy of if-you-think-I’m-bad-remember-who-I-replaced. In the very next step, Obama will take credit from his predecessor, who handed the withdrawal date and plan to Obama (who at least had the wisdom not to blow it). And while the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is important, it’s hardly the highest priority for most Americans, especially those struggling to keep jobs and homes.
Maybe that’s for the best, though, if Obama tries to shill Recovery Summer, too. The problem isn’t the salesman, it’s the product. Arguing that the economy is headed in the right direction, when joblessness remains at a generational high and the GDP has dropped from a middling 3.7% to an embarrassing 1.6%, has already discredited Biden. Having Obama descend from Mount Martha’s Vineyard to declare that all is well! will only reinforce the notion that Obama has completely lost touch with mainstream America and perhaps with reality as well. Obama can afford to have Biden play court jester, but he can’t do it himself without completely losing his political support.
The weeks-long delay in responding to the numbers is quite easy to explain. Obama doesn’t want to address the fact that his extremely expensive stimulus plan has failed, and he doesn’t have a Plan B to unveil to American voters. Instead, it’s just easier to let people slowly realize that the White House is rudderless while the President eats his shrimp and finds new ways to talk about George Bush.