Do you remember Barack Obama circa January of 2009? He was the man who had crushed the Clintons and bested the Bushes on his way to the White House, the most inspiring presidential candidate any of us had ever seen, the bane of Republican and FOX News existence, and the leader of the fired-up-and-ready-to-go Democratic Party. Do you miss him? Well, I have good news: He’s back, he’s better than ever, and his sights are set on the mid-term elections.
I caught the first glimpse of the Campaigner in Chief on Thursday as I was watching “The View” on TiVo. It was the first time a sitting president had appeared on daytime TV since the George and Laura Bush interview with Dr. Phil and I couldn’t help thinking, “Why is he on that couch?”
About halfway through the show, I realized he came to debut the theme we’ll be hearing during the fall campaign to a relatively friendly crowd (Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s disrespect aside). After defending the decision to bail out Chrysler and GM, he said, “The one thing I want to just tell everybody here in this audience is: don’t bet against American workers. Don’t bet against American ingenuity. We still have the best workers in the world, the best technology in the world, the best universities in the world. And if we get our mojo back over the next several months, then I am absolutely confident that we are going to be doing terrific.”
That same theme came up the next day at a Chrysler plant in Detroit. President Obama was defending those bailouts again when he said, “There were leaders of the ‘just say no’ crowd in Washington. They were saying … standing by the auto industry would guarantee failure. One of them called it ‘the worst investment you could possibly make.’ They said we should just walk away and let those jobs go. I wish they were standing here today. I wish they could see what I’m seeing in this plant and talk to the workers who are here taking pride in building a world-class vehicle. I don’t think they’d be willing to look you in the eye and say that you were a bad investment. They might just come around if they were standing here and admit that by standing by a great American industry and the good people who work for it, that we did the right thing. It’s hard for them to say that. You know, they don’t like admitting when I do the right thing. But they might have had to admit it. And I want all of you to know, I will bet on the American worker any day of the week!”
Later that day, he visited a GM plant in Hamtrack, Mich. where he stood in front of a Chevy Volt and previewed a little more of the offensive strategy. “Now, let’s be clear, we’re not out of the woods yet.” He said, “We’re going to have to make sure the government, business — everybody is working in the same direction. We’ve got to export more. We can’t just buy from other countries; we got to sell to other countries. And that means we’ve got to make sure that our trade deals are fair. But let me tell you when I look out at this plant, and I look out at all of you, it gives me hope. It confirms my conviction: don’t bet against the American worker! Don’t bet against the American people!”
Once could be a fluke; but twice is a trend, and three times is a reasonable certainty. I’m reasonably certain this is what we’re going to be hearing for the next couple of months.
The Republicans are also testing their campaign themes; and they’ve decided to go with two main messages. The first is that deficits are so terrible that the federal government should never spend money it doesn’t have — even on unemployment insurance payments for millions of American workers. The second is that tax cuts for a few very wealthy people should be extended, despite the fact that doing so would add trillions of dollars to the deficit. It seems like these two ideas wouldn’t go together, and that’s because they don’t.
But when you’re talking about the Republican leadership, you’re not dealing with people who care too much about things like consistency or principle. They only care about getting elected. Back in 2002, then Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill said the deficits from the second Bush tax cut would threaten the economy. Vice President Dick Cheney let him know what was the top priority by saying, “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter. We won the mid-terms.”
We’re all living with consequences of that Bush team’s economic policies and we can all agree it would have been a good idea to try a different approach. Yet when National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions was asked what Republicans would do if they were in power, his answer was, “We need to go back to the exact same agenda” of the Bush administration.
With a choice between betting on Bush policies and betting on the American worker, it’s reasonably certain President Obama’s Democratic party will hold on to control of Congress for two more years.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider with four-quadrant crossover appeal who can’t believe President Bush is releasing his book in early November, just in time to make himself an issue in the campaign. Kenny’s past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.