That lone word on the subject line of the e-mail President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign sent to supporters late Wednesday night said it all.
How the president was feeling after two months of near-constant fighting with Congress. How the White House felt after a day when it capitulated in a high-stakes contest of political gamesmanship with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
“I know that you’re frustrated by that. I am, too,” Obama wrote in the e-mail, which arrived in hundreds of thousands of inboxes between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.
The Obama campaign’s vaunted e-mail list was credited in 2008 with helping him turn out record numbers of grassroots supporters to the polls in his historic march to the White House. Three years later, Obama was trying to rally the troops again, only this time to help him gain back ground in his bitter dispute with Republicans over how to fix the ailing economy.
The campaign sent the e-mail shortly after the president had backed off his bid to speak to a special joint session of Congress next Wednesday to lay out his plan for creating jobs and boosting the economy. The time slot conflicted with a scheduled debate among Republican presidential candidates the same night in California.
Boehner objected in a response letter to the president and suggested instead that Obama come the following day, Sept. 8.
After White House and Boehner aides blamed each other for the scheduling problem, Obama eventually agreed to Boehner’s date.
But he didn’t sound happy about it.
“Next week, I will deliver the details of the plan and call on lawmakers to pass it. Whether they will do the job they were elected to do is ultimately up to them,” Obama wrote in the e-mail. “But both you and I can pressure them to do the right thing. We can send the message that the American people are playing by the rules and meeting their responsibilities — and it’s time for our leaders in Congress to meet theirs. And we must hold them accountable if they don’t.”
Hoping to enlist supporters in the fight, Obama directed them in the e-mail to a page on the campaign Web site asking them to “stand with the president” and submit their names for a petition.
The ploy is the latest attempt by Obama to cast Congress as obstinate naysayers standing in the way of his agenda to get people back to work.
In a public speech in August, Obama encouraged supporters to “tweet” their representatives in Congress in support of a “grand bargain compromise” to the protracted fight over lifting the debt ceiling and reducing the deficit. In the hours after that address, the Obama campaign's Twitter feed published the Twitter account names of House Republicans and suggested that its 10 million followers sent messages to them supporting Obama’s proposals.
Even so, Obama lost the grand bargain when Congress agreed to a scaled back plan to raise the debt ceiling that relied on large spending cuts but no tax increases, as the president had called for.
“It’s been a long time since Congress was focused on what the American people need them to be focused on,” Obama wrote in the e-mail. “That’s why I’m putting forward a set of bipartisan proposals to help grow the economy and create jobs — that means strengthening our small businesses, giving needed breaks to middle-class families, while taking responsible steps to bring down our deficit.”
The president continued: “I’m asking lawmakers to look past short-term politics and take action on that plan. But we’ve got to do this together.”