Published August 16, 2011
Obama Expands Blame Matrix on Economy
“We know what to do - I'll be putting forward specific plan in September to boost the economy. My attitude is get it done – if they don't get it done, I’ll be running against Congress not doing anything for the American people”
-- President Obama at a campaign town hall in Decorah, Iowa.
President Obama has been trying out a new narrative on the economy during his Midwestern campaign swing, saying that his policies were working well to revive the economy, but then “bad luck” and Republican radicalism reversed his gains.
Speaking to supporters in Minnesota and Iowa, Obama wove together two threads from his recent comments on the economy.
His first that the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, ongoing unrest in the Muslim world and European debt crisis formed “headwinds” that slowed America’s recovery.
Those headwinds were worsened, Obama said, with the “debacle” of a deal to produce a conditional $2.2 trillion increase in the federal debt ceiling.
As for the headwinds part, it’s complicated:
Japan’s economy has done far better than expected shrinking only .3 percent in the second quarter despite the huge disruptions caused by the temblor and the resulting radiation leak and power outages. There was some supply disruption, but Japan is keeping calm and carrying on.
Europe, though, continues to fulfill the worst expectations as bankrupt entitlement programs and short-sighted risk assessments contribute to a long, painful currency collapse. With riots all over and governments teetering, it’s safe to say that consumer confidence is not at an all time high in Old Europe.
The leaders of the countries with the remaining two viable Continental economies, France and Germany, are meeting today to decide if they will take a socialistic approach to the unquenchable debt of their bankrupt neighbors by agreeing to take on new, collective debt in order to finance a fifth or sixth round of bailouts. That means collectivizing economic control of spendthrift states like Italy and Greece too. But if the remaining haves don’t take on the multiplying have-nots, debt infection will pretty clearly bring down the euro and the EU.
The ongoing revolutions in the Arab world briefly drove up energy prices, but markets have subsequently adjusted to the idea that the old quasi-stability of the region may be gone for good. The global economic slump has also driven down the price of petroleum.
But the “headwinds” part is only a predicate for the second strand of the president’s new narrative. In his telling, the economy was getting better, then beset by events beyond anyone’s control and at that exact moment, the Republican budget pirates capsized the boat.
It seems we have an answer to the question posed in Sunday’s New York Times as to whether the president would seek to demonstrate his ability to be a centrist compromiser and strike a deal on debt or whether he would start bombarding Republicans with jobs proposals in an effort to claim the high ground on the subject that is destroying his chances for re-election.
Bombardment it is.
Obama, who has returned to his old habit of publicly making historical comparisons between himself and great leaders of the past, seems to have Harry Truman circa 1948 as his model.
The president originally promised to offer one new job creating idea a week until every American had a job, but now says he will instead drop his overall plan for reviving the economy when he returns from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard after Labor Day.
The idea is to lay out a big plan for job growth – probably an extension of current tax incentives coupled with new stimulus spending on infrastructure and anti-global warming projects – that can’t pass the Republican House but will allow Obama to say that it was Congress, not him, who has refused to help the struggling populace.
Having been shellacked for eight months for negotiating on fiscal issues without a public plan, Obama is going to reverse course and take the part of an activist leader battling a callous Congress.
All struggling first-term presidents sooner or later invoke Truman, who suffered a brutal midterm defeat even worse than Obama’s, won re-election and earned his place as a beloved American leader.
Truman, though, had the advantage of having just presided over the humiliation of Japan in World War II and had a all-Republican Congress. Republicans swept both houses in 1946 in a backlash for Truman’s extension and expansion of New Deal programs post war. In 1948, he turned the tables on Republicans and flayed them for intransigence.
Truman also had some constitutional advantages. He was a country boy with a give ‘em hell attitude that didn’t require a White House strategy session to summon.
The other advantage Truman had was a weak GOP nominee in Thomas Dewey, a retread from 1944 whose New York suits and pencil-thin moustache put off heartland voters. He looked and sounded like the kind of guy who Truman said was trying to hurt the farmers and mill workers.
The professorial Obama’s shift to confrontation will look somewhat forced, but may work to satisfy his outraged base who has been clamoring for the president to demand more spending now and quit negotiating with the terrorists.
As to whether he can make a re-election bid work on the basis of fighting with John Boehner for the next 12 months, that’s unclear. It certainly reinforces the notion that Democrats don’t expect the economy to get much better between now and Election Day and a harbinger of the scorched earth to come.
But with Obama having been so much of a spectator in Washington, he may struggle to don the guise of a warrior at this late date.
It’s Rough Up There Above the Fray
“So part of the Affordable Care Act health care reform, also known as ‘Obamacare’ -- by the way, you know what? Let me tell you, I have no problem with folks saying ‘Obama cares.’ I do care. If the other side wants to be the folks who don't care, that's fine with me.”
-- President Obama at a campaign stop in Cannon Falls, Minn.
"Lincoln -- they used to talk about him almost as bad as they talk about me. So democracy has never been for the faint of heart."
-- President Obama in Decorah, Iowa.
“As someone who’s been called a socialist, not born here, taking away freedoms for providing health care, I’m all for lowering the rhetoric.”
Romney, Perry Size Each Other Up
“Understanding how the economy works by having worked in the real economy is finally essential in the White House… I respect the other people in this race, but I think the only other person who has that kind of extensive private sector experience besides me in the Republican race is Herman Cain.”
-- Former Massachusetts Mitt Romney at a town-hall event in Litchfield, N.H.
“I was in the private sector for thirteen years after I left the Air Force. You know, I wasn’t on Wall Street, I wasn’t working at Bain Capital, but the principles of the free market — they work whether you’re in a farm field in Iowa or whether you’re on Wall Street.”
One is an cool customer with a prep-school pedigree and Wall Street clout. The other is a fiery country boy who knows cotton markets better than stock markets. One is a moderate Mormon, the other is an evangelical Christian. One authored the nation’s first mandatory health-insurance law, the other threatened to secede from the Union over a mandatory health-insurance law.
If Republicans wanted a contrast for their choice of a 2012 nominee, their two top-tier candidates are providing it. Mitt Romney and Rick Perry hardly seem to be from the same solar system, let alone the same party.
And since Perry has entered the race in essentially a tie with Romney who has been running for president since 2007, Romney can’t just float above the fray as he could when he stood head and shoulders about the rest of a roiled field.
On Monday, the two heavyweight contenders started testing each other with long-distance jabs: Romney in New Hampshire bopping Perry over a lack of business know-how, Perry in Iowa zapping Romney for his Wall Street ways.
How this battle of North versus South and city versus country plays out – and how long it takes – will determine how well-equipped Republicans are to take on Obama. If Romney survives a brutal process but is pulled to the right to get a win, he will lose much of his moderate appeal for the general election. If Perry wins but is forced to endure the same kinds of attacks from Romney that he will from Obama, it will make the twangy Texan all the easier for the president to label as extreme.
It’s getting ready to be one hell of a fight, but Republicans had better hope that whoever wins does so with a quick knockout.
“Do not worry, the days of Zarqawi are going to return soon. We have men who have divorced themselves from life and love death more than you love life, and killing is one of their wishes.”
As Iran’s influence in the Middle East continues to grow thanks to the Arab Spring and closes in on nuclear capacity, the country seems to be deepening its connections to terror groups targeting the remaining pro-Western governments in the region.
The news two weeks ago was that the Obama administration accused Iran of financially supporting Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Today, the news from NBC is that the Indian Navy intercepted an Iranian ship with aid for the terror group’s offshoot in Yemen.
Experts had long argued that Iran’s brand of apocalyptic Shia Islam was not compatible with the radical Salafist Sunni faith that animated Al Qaeda at its outset, but Iran is apparently taking a shotgun approach to mayhem in the Middle East and Al Qaeda isn’t in a position to turn down any help.
This relationship began in Iraq, where Iran has long delivered arms and aid to first kill American troops, then destabilize Iraq’s pro-Western government and now is exerting huge influence on Baghdad.
Meanwhile, the security situation in Iraq is deteriorating rapidly. Bombers, including three suicide attacks, killed 86 civilians and Iraqi police in 42 seemingly coordinated attacks across Iraq on Monday. This follows months of escalating violence and deadly days for the U.S. military.
There have already been 44 American fatalities in Iraq this year, and violence is expected to escalate before the scheduled U.S. withdrawal at the end of the year. That escalation occurs even though U.S. troop strength has dropped from its post-invasion peak of 112,000 in 2009 to 50,000 today.
Meanwhile in Syria, the Iranian-back Assad regime is killing its own subjects with abandon, even using its navy to shell its own cities in order to suppress a popular uprising by the Sunni majority. While NATO bogs down in the Libya civil war being waged against a formerly pro-Western despot, an anti-Western despot in Syria is on the march.
And Now, A Word From Charles
“Even today, after the gyrations of the market and after the downgrade and after whole debate in the country of how we are going over a cliff on debt, all of a sudden he says, ‘We'll wait until September?’
If he has an idea, how about giving it? He hasn't, in the whole debate on the debt ceiling he never once gave a plan. He never once -- in fact, these Democrats in the Senate have not issued a budget in 800 days, in two years.”