Obama is again making the same mistake he’s made for almost five years now, and his 42% approval rating shows it. He keeps allowing the GOP frame the debate. Or to use a baseball analogy, the GOP keeps throwing fastballs at him: Obamacare, Benghazi, the VA, Iraq, and he keeps fouling them off or doesn’t even get the bat off his shoulder. He hit a grand slam with the killing of bin Laden but didn’t even hit it out of the infield with the capture of Ahmed Abu Khatallah.
Once again, Obama has got to take the field and start throwing fastballs of his own. Where is the GOP most vulnerable? Where are the jobs? Yes, Obama introduced the American Jobs Act in 2011, which was killed off by both Harry Reid in the Senate and the Republicans in both chambers of Congress. He’s avoided introducing anything of substance because of the advice he continually gets from his brain trust: Don’t introduce anything that the Republicans can embarrass you with by killing it. If Obama doesn’t think the Republicans will go for it, he doesn’t make a move, outside of the occasional executive action which, frankly, doesn’t affect most of us. His brain trust also lives in terror of any bill that just might possibly or very definitely increase the budget deficit, because the voters want the deficit paid down, right? No, the average voter could care less about the deficit because it doesn’t affect them personally in the slightest. The average voter is trying to just make it through the day, hoping to keep their job or to find a new one. They see that government services have been cut back, their kids’ schools are overcrowded and the students underperforming. They’re seeing food and gasoline prices rise while their income remains stuck where it’s been for the past 3 years of so. The last thing they care about is Obama paying down the debt.
So, what should he do? Around the beginning of this year he and Harry Reid were swinging some big balls around but since then there’s been some significant shrinkage and the GOP is keeping a close eye on that shrinkage. Obama needs to regrow a pair and submit a far-reaching, effective, and expensive federal jobs creation plan, and then dare the Republicans–in an election year with an unemployment rate that is still too high and an economy still not improving. Of course, the Republicans are responsible for this, but apparently the voters who respond to those approval polls don’t see it that way. They’re tarring Obama with the same low approval ratings brush that they’re also smearing on Congress in general and on the GOP in particular.
Sure, introducing a jobs bill now would make Obama subject to the same Fox and GOP “trying to change the subject” charges they throw at everything he tries to do. So what? If Obama made this bold move and sold it to the American people like it was part of his 2008 presidential campaign platform, that would be a fastball he could blow by the Republicans. What Obama needs to do is watch two movies: “The American President” and “Dave”. OK, he’s no Michael Douglas or Kevin Kline but the point is with those two characters we WISHED they had both been president. The closest we get in real life is Bill Clinton making a speech.
What do the Republicans excel at? Getting the entire party and their surrogates unified behind the same talking points which they spew 24/7 everywhere their voter base turns, watches, listens, or (in a few cases) reads. One of the Achilles Heels of the Obama administration is that his staff, the Democratic Party, and their surrogates continually let their talking points assault drop. Where is Democratic Senator after Senator or Congressperson after Congressperson giving press conferences and interviews? OK, we know in advance Fox won’t cover any of it but what about CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, the three who-used-to-be major networks? If PBS or NPR news editor refuses to give the same coverage they give the Republicans, the Democrats are also fully capable of voting to pull public broadcasting funding, too. And lastly, why the hell is Obama appointing communications industry lobbyists to the FCC instead of professionals who have the public’s interests and rights at heart? Reinstitute the Fairness Doctrine and that would do much to level the playing field.
I don’t see Obama as a master chess player; I see him as a guy who realized his dream but constantly fears it might be taken away from him, even though it can’t except by impeachment and conviction. I see him hemmed in by advisers who advise him on what he can and can’t do—and better not do if he knows what’s good for him politically. I think the GOP recognized this in him way before I did, and that has been the tale of his presidency. In his first term he chose to bend with the GOP wind (negotiate) and it almost broke him and it seriously wounded the Democratic Party in 2010.
Obama’s got two balls on him. He needs to use those balls to start throwing strikes.