The notion of Bush 41 as being clueless about the struggle of ordinary Americans was captured in one cringe-inducing moment when he expressed amazement at a supermarket price scanner, a device that had been in use in most stores for years. While it wasn’t really fair to criticize a man who had spent the previous 12 years as president and vice president for his unfamiliarity with the routines of grocery shopping, it reinforced the notion of him being a patrician who was clueless about ordinary life. Obama’s gaffe was actually much worse than that. It shows his refusal to accept the reality of the failure of some of his policies, but the real damage is that it has strengthened the prevailing narrative about the economy.
The analogy between the two presidents is far from exact. Obama has advantages Bush 41 could only dream of. Bush was just another in a long line of wealthy white guys to live in the White House, while Obama has the historic status that comes from being the first African-American president. Bush had a restive GOP base that bitterly resented the breaking of his “read my lips” pledge not to raise taxes, while Obama can still count on a united party even if the messianic hopes his presidency engendered have deflated some of their enthusiasm. Obama also can count on a mostly sympathetic liberal mainstream press. Most of all, there is no Ross Perot-like third party challenger in 2012 to muddy the waters and disrupt partisan voting trends that might have saved Bush.
But for all his advantages, unless President Obama can convince the country that events are not slipping beyond his control, he is on a fast track to being the first one-term president since Bush 41.
“As he seeks re-election, President Obama is fighting not so much to convince Americans of his worth but to control the narrative about a failing economy,” Tobin writes. “That’s the very same struggle the 41st president fought and lost 20 years ago.” Obama’s week jet-setting, too busy to intercede while his fellow Democrats in Wisconsin imploded, capped off with his own disastrous gaffe on Friday really adds to the aura of a president seeing events slip from his control. His fundraising surrogates aren’t helping matters.
“Last week, the republic’s citizen-president passed among his fellow Americans,” Mark Steyn writes in his latest column. “Where? Cleveland? Dubuque? Presque Isle, Maine? No, Beverly Hills. These days, it’s pretty much always Beverly Hills or Manhattan, because that’s where the money is. That’s the Green Zone, and you losers are outside it.”
A year and a half ago, big-money Democrats in Rhode Island paid $7,500 per person for the privilege of having dinner with President Obama at a private home in Providence. He showed up for 20 minutes and then said he couldn’t stay for dinner. “I’ve got to go home to walk the dog and scoop the poop,” he told them, because when you’ve paid seven-and-a-half grand for dinner nothing puts you in the mood to eat like a guy talking about canine fecal matter. And, having done the poop gag, the president upped and exited, and left bigshot Dems to pass the evening talking to the guy from across the street. But you’ve got to admit that’s a memorable night out: $7,500 for Dinner with Obama* (*dinner with Obama not included).
And here’s an even better deal, for those who, despite the roaring economy, can’t afford even $7,500 for non-dinner with Obama: The president of the United States is raffling himself off! For the cost of a $3 non-refundable online-application processing fee, you and your loved one can have your names put in a large presidential hat from which the FBI background-check team will pluck two to be ushered into the presence of their humble citizen-executive. That’s to say, somewhere across the fruited plain, a common-or-garden non-celebrity will win the opportunity to attend an Obama fundraiser at the home of Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker, co-hosted by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, the British-born inspiration for the movie The Devil Wears Prada. I wish this were a parody, but I’m not that good. But I’m sure Sarah Jessica and Anna will treat you just like any other minor celebrity they’ve accidentally been seated next to due to a hideous faux pas in placement, even if you do dip the wrong end of the arugula in the amuse-bouche.
Between the debacle of a president who supports “Occupy Wall Street” using Occupy Conde Nast as a campaign surrogate, followed by his own goal on Friday when he blurted, “The private sector is doing fine,” Obama himself helped to blunt yet another leftwing talking point against Romney, that he was effete and aloof. Note Romney’s quick response on Friday painting Obama as completely out of touch with the American middle class — and his campaign repeating the theme in a YouTube clip yesterday:
“The private sector is doing fine” really is a definitive Kinsleyesque gaffe, as it reveals the mindset not just of Mr. Obama, but of his staff as well:
President Obama’s top campaign strategist said Sunday that the country needs to “accelerate” job creation in the private sector — by hiring more teachers, police and firefighters.
David Axelrod made the comment as he continued to perform damage control for the president, who said Friday during a press conference that the private sector’s “doing fine.” But Axelrod drew rapid-fire ridicule from conservatives, after he called for more public-sector hiring to address private-sector economic issues.
“The private sector, we need to accelerate job creation in the private sector,” Axelrod told CNN’s “State of the Union,” before adding: “One of the ways that we can do that is putting teachers and firefighters and police back to work because those are good middle-class jobs.”
Told that teachers and firefighters are part of the public sector, Axelrod continued to defend his statement. “But that will help accelerate the recovery,” Axelrod said.
While Tobin believes that Obama still has the support of his base, Byron York of the Washington Examiner isn’t so sure. “Democratic strategists Stanley Greenberg and James Carville have released a striking new report arguing in stark terms that some key voting groups now reject President Obama’s claim that the economy is improving — and may well reject Obama himself in November.”
Since we’ve been discussing owned goals, Bill Kristol made an apt sports analogy:
Obama has a broken machine inadequate for the race he is in. Wisconsin behavior and aftermath indicative. Reminds me of scene in movie Miracle where the Russian hockey coach Tikhonov—so used to winning—doesn’t realize he should pull his goalie in the final minutes to gain a one man advantage on offense. U.S. assistant coach says to Herb Brooks, “Why doesn’t he pull his goalie?,” and Brooks studies the guy and says, “He doesn’t know what to do!” Same for Team Obama. Never behind, never on defense, never had trouble getting media to carry their talking points. Now it’s different and they don’t know what to do.
Ace has recently been saying that the MSM would loooove to breakout the “comeback kid” narrative to help carry Obama’s water. But presumably, the administration must signal that the hemorrhaging has stopped first, before going on the offensive. With so many fires raging around the administration at the moment, that could prove rather problematic.
Update: “Clintonites Hit The Panic Button For Obama” — well, somebody has to jolt the president back to reality.