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Right Turn
Posted at 03:08 PM ET, 09/06/2012

Obama needs to put his cards on the table

This short report from Bloomberg TV is not exactly what the Obama team would like to have floating around on the day of his big speech:

The difference between the Reagan recovery and the Obama lull is the inconvenient disconnect in President Obama’s argument for reelection that won’t go away. Obama likes to invoke Ronald Reagan. His deputy campaign chief thinks his record is better than Reagan’s (it’s not). But Reagan had very different results, conservatives argue, because he had very different policy ideas and a very different personality than Obama, which allowed him to work with Democratic leaders.

Part of the difficulty with Obama’s “give me four more years to finish the job” is that voters see very little progress, at least the type of progress that matters to them and their families. Middle-class families have lost about $4,000 in income on average since he was elected, and unemployment has been over 8 percent for 42 months. How can he “finish” a recovery that people don’t think has really gotten underway?

The more basic problem for Obama is convincing us that if we only give him more time, he will get it right. To begin with, he’s not proposing (at least he hasn’t before the speech) something big that would, in time, jump-start the economy. His agenda is and has been liberal wish-list items (health care) and increasingly small beans Keyensianism (hire teachers). There just isn’t any there there. And if there really is nothing new, are we just supposed to stand patiently, seeing whether by osmosis the economy will suddenly kick into high gear?

With the release of Bob Woodward’s book, the question is raised once again: Is Obama the right person with the right skills to ever get this right? Is he suddenly going to transform his personality, treat opponents with respect, stop bloviating and get into the weeds on policy? It would be bizarre if he had been capable of doing so and chose not to in his nearly four years in office. Isn’t it possible that he’s just not very good at this governing thing?

And finally, even if Obama did propose something big and even if he did become a gregarious deal-maker, we know from the past four years (not to mention the past two nights) that this is a president deeply wedded to liberal statism. Doing good, for him, is spending lots of money at the federal government. Grabbing more revenue to fuel his large expansion of the federal government is essential, so any tax reform, as we’ve seen before, is going to be anti-stimulative and take more money out of the hands of employers and investors.

For all his talk that the private sector is “doing fine,” the real problem is that his policies make a private sector rebound more difficult. He’s not going to get a Reagan recovery because he has un-Reagan-like policies.

The media have squinted and ruminated over Mitt Romney’s tax plan. They have questioned how the numbers add up in his entitlement plans. Good. That’s important. But where is the unease with a total blank slate, the absence of serious proposals either to address our near-recession economy or our fiscal train wreck? The august fourth estate can hardly let him off the hook after all that huffing and puffing over a Republican candidate who actually has put out far more detailed policy proposals than any presidential candidate in memory (even Reagan, who was light on specifics in 1980).

We’ll see what Obama has to say and, after the rapture has lifted, what the media have to say. I suspect neither will be convincing in their pleas to give Obama a second chance.

By  |  03:08 PM ET, 09/06/2012

 
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