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Post Partisan
Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 06/13/2012

‘Fundamental error’ in argument against Obama’s campaign message


No one does panic like Democrats. At the slightest hint of trouble, memos are written and knives are sharpened — in the backs of “friends.” Karen Tumulty reports in The Post today on how “Obama team woes concern Democrats.” Meanwhile, a headline in Politico advises “Democrats want change in Obama’s message.” Both stories are about folks in the party who are worried that the president isn’t connecting with voters and their fears about the sluggish economy. The concern is understandable. Last week for President Obama (D-private sector is doing fine) wasn’t exactly ideal. Okay, it was spectacularly awful. But, c’mon, people. If this were September, all this hand-wringing and clutching-of-pearls would be justified.

Of all the lamentations in both pieces, the one that had me in full eye roll was this one in Politico from Drew Westen, an Emory University clinical psychologist who studies the role of messaging and emotion in politics.

Obama’s “fundamental error,” Westen said, was not blaming former President George W. Bush and conservative lawmakers early enough and often enough in his term for creating the country’s economic troubles before he got into office.

Westen either suffers from amnesia or is a resident of the land of Mitt-Believe. Republicans have been hammering Obama for his propensity to blame President George W. Bush for the nation’s problems from almost the beginning of his administration. That’s because Obama has been blaming Bush for that long.

On March 14, 2009, less than two months into Obama’s term, The Post’s Scott Wilson wrote a story headlined “Obama sharpens his reminders that he inherited fiscal ‘mess’ from Bush.”

Over the past month, Obama has reminded the public at every turn that he is facing problems “inherited” from the Bush administration, using increasingly bracing language to describe the challenges his administration is up against. The “deepening economic crisis” that the president described six days after taking office became “a big mess” in remarks this month to graduating police cadets in Columbus, Ohio....

Later in the story, Wilson catalogued the new president’s incessant (and correct) message to the American people.

Six days after taking office, Obama kicked off an event on jobs, energy reform and climate change with “a few words about the deepening economic crisis that we’ve inherited.” He lamented announced job cuts at such economic mainstays as Microsoft, Intel, Home Depot and Caterpillar, among others.
Just over a week later, Obama, arguing for his stimulus plan, said that “we’ve inherited a terrible mess,” and a few days after that, in the economically depressed city of Elkhart, Ind., he told the audience, “We’ve inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the Great Depression.”
During a prime-time news conference later that day, he used “inherited” twice in the same sentence to describe the deficit and “the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression.”
This month, Obama has described inheriting “a fiscal disaster” and “a real mess,” as administration officials emphasized that the effects of the stimulus package have yet to be seen in paychecks and job-creating public-works projects.

Despite poll after poll after poll showing that the American people and Obama are in sync on the question of blame, Republicans and conservatives have whined and continue to whine that the president is ducking responsibility for his role in the economy’s lackluster performance.

Thus, the “fundamental error” is Westen’s for forgetting such recent history.

By  |  10:45 AM ET, 06/13/2012

Tags:  Election 2012

 
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