President Obama achieved a milestone you probably didn’t notice. For the first time in his turbulent presidency, he made it through the month of August without a major calamity.
August 2009 was the month of the town hall forums against his proposed health-care reform. Some of them turned ugly, real ugly. And Sarah Palin’s conspiratorial warning of “death panels”didn’t help matters. It was a lie that PolitiFact dubbed “the lie of the year” in 2009. But the damage it caused forced the president to address a joint session of Congress to save his reform effort. Obama’s singular focus on getting a health-care law passed would prove successful. He just had to endure a “You lie!” moment to get there.
August 2010 was relatively light on calamity. But the hangover from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was still being felt by Obama, whose stewardship of the crisis was found wanting. On April 20, the Deepwater Horizon facility exploded and for the next three months, oil would flow into the Gulf unabated. The gusher was finally capped on July 15, but the well was not sealed until Sept. 19. Meanwhile, Obama’s anemic poll numbers made him persona non grata among Democrats campaigning for reelection in the all-important mid-term elections.
And August 2011 was all about the debt-ceiling craziness. The president signed legislation on Aug. 2 to raise the nation’s debt ceiling above $14.3 trillion to avoid the first-ever default by the United States. But questions raised about the full faith and credit of the United States led Standard & Poor’s to issue the first-ever downgrade of the nation’s AAA bond rating on Aug. 5. On top of that, Obama was being hammered for the lack of jobs. Once again, the president would use a joint session of Congress to sell his legislative idea. The American Jobs Act was unveiled on Sept. 8. But the bill died in the Senate a month later after Democrats fell 10 votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. All part of a GOP plan to ensure Obama’s failure.
The relative quiet of August 2012 hit me on the 23rd. I thought about writing something then but didn’t out of fear of being a jinx. Well, Obama’s August Angst has been broken. Sure, Hurricane Isaac tore apart areas in Louisiana and other areas of the Gulf Coast. Yet the fears that the storm would be another disaster akin to August 2005’s Hurricane Katrina were not borne out. Thank goodness.
When I ran into the Patrick Gaspard, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee yesterday, my first question to him was not about Clint Eastwood and his chair antics. It was about whether it was a good omen for Obama that he made it through an August with relatively no drama.
“I’d say the best omen that we have is that the Republican convention took place in August, and a lot of good things came out of that conversation for the president and for our opportunity to win because that convention focused entirely on trying to drag the president down instead of laying out a vision for the future,” Gaspard, who was Obama’s political director in his first two years, told me. “And I’ll also say, having been a veteran of the Obama White House, somebody who went through the summer of the tea party and health care and oil spills and a number of other interesting phenomena, it does feel right now as if we’re breaking through. We’re having some success in laying out a clear contrast between where the president has taken us, where he wants to take us and where the other party is right now.”
We’ll find out in 64 days if the no-drama August omen was indeed a good one.