When we come back, liberals lament the state of the Obama reelection campaign, as angst over his economic message grows. Is a shakeup coming?
GIGOT: Is it time for a shakeup in Chicago? Many on the left seem to think so. This week, Bloomberg's Al Hunt, summed up how fellow liberals are feeling about the president's election efforts. In a column titled "The Obama Campaign Needs an Intervention," he writes, quote, "For Democrats, June has been the cruelest month. There has been discouraging economic news, the reelection candidate has made mistakes and seems he's out of his comfort zone. The supposedly superior Obama campaign looks amateurish, and complaints about the operation's insularity have reached a fever pitch."
We're back with Dan Henninger and Kim Strassel. And Wall Street Journal columnist and former Bush speech writer, Bill McGurn, also joins the panel.
So, Kim, what do you make of this liberal angst about the Obama campaign? Is it warranted?
STRASSEL: Well, it comes out of watching the Obama campaign in the past couple of months, which have been all over the place. First, they said the economy was getting better. Then it wasn't as bad as it might have been. And they went after Romney and Bain Capital and they went on him on his handling of Massachusetts and the war on women and student loans. They've been throwing everything they can at him to try to get something to stick without much traction. Last week, the president came out with an attempt at a reboot. This is when he laid out his two visions forward, mine, or the terrible one that belongs to Romney. And this interestingly has begun to calm some nerves out there among the Democratic base and among the political community. Because, in part, they realize that this may be the best opportunity he has. If he can't talk about his record and the economy, but he can try to make this a referendum on Mitt Romney.
Bill, is this pivot, likely to work? What's the --
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST & FORMER BUSH SPEECH WRITER: I don't that it's likely to work. It's probably wise. Look, you mentioned liberal angst, liberals have always been anxious when they have to explain the failure of liberal policies. For two years, the president has a Democratic majority and put in a stimulus that didn't stimulate and he put in a health care bill that may be declared unconstitutional and unemployment is higher than he would. My experience has always been, when people say there's a campaign problem or a PR problem, it's always a substance problem.
I think I told you, when I was in the White House, we once had an acrimonious meeting about war speeches, waiting for the surge, and everyone was complaining about the speeches, that we should be saying this and ratings would go up. My line was, you give me a better war, I'll give you better speeches --
-- which happened --
GIGOT: It's hard to make a losing war sound good.
GIGOT: And it's hard to make a poor economy sound like it's somebody's fault other than your own.
MCGURN: Right. Everyone can't concentrate on the message, how you can get the message. But, is this the only place he can go. A reboot, what does it mean? It means a new spin on facts that he can't really talk about.
GIGOT: Yes, Dan, I think that, I kind of agree with bill on this. If I were the Romney and disagree with the liberal critics of Obama's campaign, what else do they -- can they do?
HENNINGER: What do they want?
GIGOT: They've got to change the subject.
GIGOT: You can't say 8.2 percent unemployment. That's fabulous. Housing prices down again. That's fabulous, too.
You've got to say, Romney would make it worse, it's all Bush's fault, or let's talk about contraception of immigration or something else. And they're playing, as well as they can, a rotten hand.
HENNINGER: It's the hand they've been holding for about 40 years. Look, they want Obama to somehow come up with a new magic idea on the economy. The Democratic -- the Democratic idea since at least Lyndon Baines Johnson can be summed up in three words, tax and spend, OK? That's what they do. And Barack Obama, in that Cleveland speech, said -- he calls it investments. He's going to invest in education, infrastructure, energy, research and development.
GIGOT: But you wrote this week that you think that could be a winning message because of the way he pitches it and the focus on the middle class.
HENNINGER: Yes. I think there is tremendous anxiety out there in the country among the electorate and the middle class electorate. People are upset and they don't know why the economy is performing as badly as it is and they want it to get better. And it will be up to either of those two candidates to tell those anxious people why his ideas are going to make it better. And I think if the president keeps drilling and drilling on himself as the protector of the middle class, without a refutation by Romney, it could work.
GIGOT: All right, Kim, how do you think Romney should respond, and is he likely to, the way that Dan says he needs to?
STRASSEL: Well, this is the Romney challenge, because fundamental to the president's reboot in this argument, is this narrative, this sort of rewriting of history, this argument that the financial crash was fundamentally the fault of conservative policies and philosophies, and that everything that is wrong in the country is because of that, and stems from that. And Romney's challenge is going to have to be to explain why that's wrong, to talk about what really caused the financial crash, to talk about why we haven't recovered since then. He hasn't done that much. He's been very good ostensibly saying what the president hasn't done right, but he hasn't talked a lot about the bigger ideas and gone back to try to correct that history. That's what he's going to have to do. Otherwise, if there's a choice that people may, Dan, go with what seems safer if they think that the alternative is worse.
GIGOT: Romney speaks in practical terms. Obama isn't working. Obama speaks in moral terms. This is right, this is wrong. That's a more powerful argument?
RAGO: I would say play devil's advocate a little bit. I'm not sure Romney has to get into details. President Obama came in on hope and change, with almost no details.
People were tired of Bush, tired of war, financial crisis, they were tired of it. A lot of people might be tired of Barack Obama. What Romney has to do, I think, is speak to aspirations of people. People are struggling. A lot of people out of work. There a lot of people are in work, but afraid they are going to lose their jobs or they're not moving forward. He has to grab -- he's starting to do that. But he has to really grasp their aspirations.
GIGOT: Does he have to show how we get out of it.
MCGURN: Yes, he does, but I think that's the part. Tether it to an economy that lets people achieve their dreams.
GIGOT: Thanks, Bill.
Forget Wisconsin there's a labor battle brewing in the president's home state. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn't the only Democrat taking on the teachers unions. We'll have details next.
GIGOT: Move over Scott Walker and Chris Christie. Now Democrats are taking on the teachers' unions. A showdown on President Obama's home turf is pitting his former chief of staff, now mayor, Rahm Emanuel, against Chicago teachers over issues of pay and longer school days. And last weekend, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, led by Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, unanimously endorsed so-called trigger laws, that allow parents to seize control of so-called failing public schools.