Yesterday, President Crankypants lectured his base — news editors — on the “social Darwinism” of the House GOP budget and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney. If you want a point-by-point rebuttal, Guy Benson has it for you. If you prefer wry mockery, Allahpundit is your man. However, Pres. Obama gave a marvelous speech, as Howard Fineman helps explain:
President Barack Obama is leading in the polls, particularly in swing states. The economy is, in some ways, recovering impressively from the mega-meltdown of 2008-09. The Republican Party is poised to nominate Mitt Romney, a man with no public political skills who wants to install an elevator in his garage and has an uncanny ability to generate fear and loathing among many of his party’s most ardent grassroots activists.
Yet Obama, who essentially kicked off the general election season on Tuesday at an annual gathering of newspaper editors, was a grim-faced candidate. No “Happy Warrior” was he. His hair growing grayer by the day, his lips tight and jaw clenched, the president seemed to be looking forward to the campaign with all the joy of a teen combatant in “The Hunger Games.”
But the main reason for Obama’s grim mood Tuesday was the political strategy that he and his aides have decided to pursue. The president did not much bother to tout his administration’s achievements. Instead and not by accident, he spent most of his podium time crying havoc about the GOP candidates, the Republican House budget and even what he regards as the danger the Supreme Court will act irresponsibly on health care.
Unlike Fineman, you probably noticed the cognitive dissonance from the lede to the paragraphs which followed. The conclusions Fineman avoids drawing from his observations are the most important thing about Obama’s speech.
As far back as last September, Team Obama has been claiming the 2012 election is a choice between two candidates, rather than a referendum on Obama. The claim is technically true, but generally unhelpful to the incumbent as a practical matter. The fact that elections generally present a choice of the lesser of two evils does not make for a good campaign theme. An incumbent president would much prefer to run on his record and a booming economy. Accordingly, Obama tried out an “America is Back” theme in his State of the Union speech. In late February, Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg found this approach produced disastrous results.
Seven months from the election, we find Obama regressing to play what Fineman calls the “Grim Warrior.” Tuesday’s speech announces to the world that Team Obama has no confidence the economy will improve much between April and November. Tuesday’s speech announces that Obama does not believe he can win on his record. Tuesday’s speech announces that Obama thinks he must convince voters mushy Mitt Romney is a radical extremist to win. Conservatives and libertarians may be disgusted by the text of Obama’s speech, but they should be delighted by the subtext.