NBC’s Chuck Todd didn’t expect to hear anything new from Barack Obama’s “déjà pivot,” and in that sense Obama certainly delivered. Noting that the first three letters of news is N-E-W, Todd told the Morning Joe crew today that Obama didn’t make any of either. Obama went on the campaign trail not to make a difference in the political debate, Todd believes, but as a self-tonic (via The Corner):
Yesterday’s job speeches were more of the same from President Obama, says NBC’s Chuck Todd. “If you’re looking for the ‘new’ — No, there wasn’t ‘new’ in there,” he said on Morning Joe today.
Todd sensed that the speeches were also a sign that the “flagging” White House is “stuck” because of a lack of agenda. “I think the president needed to do this,” Todd explained. “I think he needed to go in front of crowds, I think he needed to re-energize himself.”
Dana Milbank had reached that conclusion a day before Obama gave the speech. The entire exercise, Milbank wrote, showed that Obama was out of ideas, and had gone into “reruns” instead:
How can the president make news, and remake the agenda, by delivering the same message he gave in 2005? He’s even giving the speech from the same place, Galesburg, Ill.
White House officials say this will show Obama’s consistency. “We plead guilty to the charge that there is a thematic continuity that exists between the speech the president will give in Galesburg, at Knox College on Wednesday, and his speech in Osawatomie [Kansas, in 2011] and his speech back at Knox College in 2005,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said.
Yes, but this also risks sending the signal that, just six months into his second term, Obama is fresh out of ideas. There’s little hope of getting Congress to act on major initiatives and little appetite in the White House to fight for bold new legislation that is likely to fail. And so the president, it seems, is going into reruns. …
If he’s to break through the resistance, Obama will need some bold new proposals. That’s why his speech returning to the oldies would seem to confirm that the White House has given up on big achievements.
The editors at the Wall Street Journal note that Obama’s attempt to blame “inequality” for the sorry state of the Obama recovery is indeed the same-old, same-old — and it’s the reason why Obama had to give the speech at all. Had Obama focused on growth rather than “fairness,” both of these problems might have disappeared:
The President summed up his economic priorities close to the top of his hour-long address. “This growing inequality isn’t just morally wrong; it’s bad economics,” he told his Galesburg, Illinois audience. “When middle-class families have less to spend, businesses have fewer customers. When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy. When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther apart, it undermines the very essence of this country.”
Then the heart of the matter: “That’s why reversing these trends must be Washington’s highest priority. It’s certainly my highest priority.”
Which is the problem. For four and a half years, Mr. Obama has focused his policies on reducing inequality rather than increasing growth. The predictable result has been more inequality and less growth. As even Mr. Obama conceded in his speech, the rich have done well in the last few years thanks to a rising stock market, but the middle class and poor have not. The President called his speech “A Better Bargain for the Middle Class,” but no President has done worse by the middle class in modern times.
By now the lackluster growth figures are well known. The recovery that began four years ago has been one of the weakest on record, averaging a little more than 2%. And it has not gained speed. Growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 was 0.4%. It rose to a still anemic 1.8% in the first quarter but most economists are predicting even slower growth in the second quarter.
Populism may sell with voters, but its policies don’t create economic growth, as the last four years have conclusively demonstrated. If Obama was more interested in economic growth than his own political energy, he might have suggested a real change of course on regulatory and tax policies. Instead, we just got the familiar déjà pivot.