Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 9, 2010

THE PRESIDENT'S POIGNANT ONE-TWO PUNCH.... Watching President Obama's speech just outside Cleveland yesterday, something seemed a little different.

The president has a habit of going out of his way -- perhaps even too far -- to give his detractors and opponents the benefit of the doubt. He'll characterize Republicans -- whom he'll often just call "some in Congress" or "the minority" -- as sincere but mistaken. He'll try to emphasize areas of agreement with his critics, and point to issues where he'd like to see bipartisan support.

Yesterday, however, the president's speech suggested that, at least for now, he's tired of unrequited outreach. This was a speech in which Obama talked about Republicans the way Republicans talk about him -- only his case had the advantage of being true.

Much has been made of the fact that the president mentioned House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) by name, eight times. That was clearly a departure from the norm, and may have had something to do with Obama speaking in Ohio.

But the larger significance of the speech was the president carefully and thoroughly taking apart Boehner's party's discredited economic vision. In the process, Obama presented the electorate with a very clear choice for the short-term and long-term future. The New York Times editorial board argued it took the president "too long to engage this debate." Perhaps. But there can be little doubt that he's fighting hard now.

E.J. Dionne Jr. did a nice job describing the context of the White House push.

Until Obama's Labor Day speech in Milwaukee and his statement of principles Wednesday near Cleveland, it was not clear how much heart he had in the fight or whether he would ever offer a comprehensive argument for the advantage of his party's approach.

In the absence of a coherent case, Republicans were winning by default on a wave of protest votes. Without this new effort at self-definition, Obama was a blur: a socialist to conservatives, a sellout to some progressives, and a disappointment to younger Americans who wondered what happened to the ebullient, hopeful guy they voted for.

That's why the Milwaukee-Cleveland one-two punch mattered. The first speech showed Obama could fight and enjoy himself in the process. The second speech spelled out why he has chosen to do battle.... Suddenly, there's a point to this election. Obama is late to this game, but at least he's finally playing it.

If you missed it, I think the speech is well worth watching. I have no idea if it's too late, or if the necessary number of voters are even willing to listen. But if you've been waiting for the president to take the fight to the GOP with the passion evident in 2008, wait no more.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (63)

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Has Obama made any effort to coordinate his message with the rest of the Democratic party? Or are Democratic candidates going to trample on Obama's eleventh-hour efforts from now through November?

And Obama needs to quit pretending that Democrats will get fair coverage from the corporate-controlled media. He doesn't need to confront the media directly, just drop in not-so-subtle shots like:

"If you get your news from the mainstream media you won't have heard about this, but . . . "

Posted by: SteveT on September 9, 2010 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

I have no idea if it's too late

Too late? For 90% of the country, the midterm elections are only now just starting to break through to their consciousness.

TPM had a nice piece on this:

Obama understands a mid term election is like the opening of a big movie. People only begin paying attention eight weeks out. As each week ticks off, the attention levels get higher. Like any marketing campaign, you don't want the interest level to peak too early.

Yep. As the Republicans taught us, you don't roll out a new product in August. Now that people are tuning in, Obama is going to bring the fight.

Posted by: TR on September 9, 2010 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Took ... too long", indeed. Like Kerry in 2004. Too little, too late.

Posted by: Gray on September 9, 2010 at 8:20 AM | PERMALINK

I watched the speech yesterday, and thought he did a good job.

Then I turned on 'the cables' this morning, and learned that I- and the President- was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The MSNBC crew said, in effect, it was beneath the dignity of the president to call out Boner (EIGHT times!) by name.

I shoulda stood in bed. . .

Posted by: DAY on September 9, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

He has proven political instincts, so you have to trust him. If you hit the GOP, they will drop. Nothing there.

Posted by: Bob M on September 9, 2010 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you've been writing about Obama making vigorous defenses of his policies for at least the last year. The problem is that no one covers them. Hopefully, the election will change that.

That said, it's good to see the president stepping his game up a notch.

Posted by: JD on September 9, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

With a little more than seven weeks left until the election, it is far from too late. But we need to make sure that President Obama's efforts to step up his game are matched by our own efforts. Let's all get out there and canvass, phonebank, write letters to the editor, talk to our family and friends, etc. to make sure folks understand how President Obama and the Democrats have made real progress in fixing our economy and improving the lives of the American people.


Posted by: Winning Progressive on September 9, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

I, for one, totally disagree with the naysayers who say "too little, too late". It's never too late, and what's more, you have to take into consideration the extraordinarily short attention of the American Voter and the fact that most of what they'll remember at the voting booth is what they saw and heard two months prior (if even that).

Having said that, it is absolutely essential that the Dems, and Obama especially, stick to the enormous wealth of established evidence proving Republican malfeasance and piss-poor governance. Failing that, your message gets diluted by fact-checkers showing that you have a loose connection to the truth and will thus suffer a critical loss of the moral high ground.

For instance, check out Polifact's take on the above speech - Barely True.

Posted by: Kiweagle on September 9, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Sometimes Harry Reid also has shown some spine before he caves to the rethugs and their corporately owned buddies the blue dog dumbocraps.

Is Obama showing us more than rhetoric? I doubt it.

Still waiting for Elizabeth Warren to be appointed to head the Consumer Protection Agency. Will Obama appoint her and 'disappoint' Wall Street and the rethugs? Doubt it, she would actually believe in protecting consumers and that is unaceptable to Schumer (Sen - Wall Street), Dodd (job hunting), and the rest of the senators owned by Wall Street.

The Obomination disappointment continues...

Posted by: SadOldVet on September 9, 2010 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

I agree. If he had come out fighting early this summer, he would have peaked. The election consciousness is just now starting with the public and he'll start getting a lot of coverage. This is going to force the Republicans to come up with more than just talking points. They are going to have to put up or shut up. If they are countered on their so-called proposals, they will have to do a lot of explaining - and that's what will get them in trouble. We are going to lose seats, no doubt about it, primarily Blue Dog democrats. But what the hell, they didn't vote for the Democratic agenda most of the time anyway. It only matters if the balance of the House changes. IMHO which probably doesn't count for much.

Posted by: Joy on September 9, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Obama made a mistake by waiting to fight back. After 20 months, the lies and the "disappointment" narrative have taken hold. Now the Chamber of Commerce and other conservative voices will spend whatever it takes to drown the dems.

Posted by: Barry on September 9, 2010 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

As frustrating as I find this president to be at times, I think he's made a really smart move. He's got the republicans right where he wants them, and will damn them with their own words. He's allowed them to spew their irrational, nonsensical hooey and will use it all to beat them over the head with. His speech yesterday clearly laid out the options available for voters. I think all they hooey we've seen from the media lately about the impending tsunami is all just media generated nonsense - who exactly are they trying to convince? I think it'll backfire again, just like it did in 2008. Problem is the spineless dems in the congress need to stand up and full-throatedly boast about their accomplishments, not cower like whipped dogs. Time to deploy the Silvermann tactic too - talk to your parents, friends, etc. - the right has given us plenty of material to work with, and if the actual threat of privatized social security and medicare vouchers doesn't get their attention, then they're hopeless. The republicans absolute unseriousness toward the problems facing this country should be ammo enough, but using their own words should drive it home. Electing crackpots in KY or NV doesn't matter? Think again, enough of those nuts could really influence legislation.

Posted by: Jilli on September 9, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Too little, waaay too late. The WH's passive stance for the past two years has allowed the Republicans to embed their narrative in the mainstream media. Now when he speaks, he isn't arguing against the other party, he's arguing against what everyone assumes to be the truth.

Posted by: dr. bloor on September 9, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

For those who think its not too late, I would suggest that the narrative on mid-term elections has already been set, and a couple of speeches (as good as they were) are not going to change that narrative. 2010 mid-terms constitute a serious backlash by the reactionaries who hate everything Obama stands for (a world of diminished significance for the oppressed white minority). It was bad with Clinton in 1994, but I think it is much worse today.

Posted by: Scott F. on September 9, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

The Obomination disappointment continues...

I know, I know. Aside from fulfilling a century-old liberal quest for health care reform, instituting the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression, averting a Second Great Depression, getting us out of Iraq, putting two liberals on the Supreme Court, reversing three decades of conservative decay in the regulatory offices of the government, instituting major reforms on credit card companies, paving the way for lasting DADT repeal, securing equal pay for equal work for women, and ending the stem cell research ban, what exactly has Obama accomplished?

It's amazing he hasn't accomplished more, what with Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats offering no opposition at all and with the media pushing bullshit narratives all the time and, of course, with liberals at the grassroots not at all acting like petulant little shits, demanding nothing less than a unicorn-filled utopia.

He's really no different than Bush. At all.

Posted by: Brian on September 9, 2010 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

For those who think its not too late, I would suggest that the narrative on mid-term elections has already been set, and a couple of speeches (as good as they were) are not going to change that narrative.

Well, the narrative certainly won't change if we all accept it.

But the media can absolutely change their narrative. Look at how they turned on a dime with Shirley Sherrod.

In fact, given their constant desire for something new and shiny to talk about, and how much they love a comeback story, I think they're primed for this.

But Winning Progressive is absolutely right -- the key here is that all of us get off our asses and get to work. There's a House candidate near you who could definitely use your help. GO!

Posted by: TR on September 9, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

I think the strategy is brilliant. Obama allowed the Republicans to spend the summer acting like fools, electing crazy candidates for the fall sweepstakes (In the meantime, Democrats went about trying to be the grownups in the Congress.). He let them fight it out amongst themselves so that he and other Dems could draw sharp contrasts in the fall when everyone would be paying attention -- to rope-a-dope them in the final round.

Posted by: pol on September 9, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

I don't think it is too late and could be the time to build momentum. Yes the media has been passing along the tea party nonsense for awhile, but if the polls start going towards the Dem they will very quickly switch their story.

My impression is Obama has a long history of letting the other side talk themselves silly and then stepping in and making his case. Someone once said it is part of a community organizer training..Let people have their say and then reframe the debate in your way.

Posted by: Objective Dem on September 9, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

I'll be very interested to see how this plays out. I was watching Nancy Grace in the gym last night, and there were two analysts talking about how bad it would really be if the GOP took over Congress. They mentioned not just a government standstill, but the Republican plan to shut down the government again, and the endless investigations. Now, I almost never watch cable news, but from what I gather, that was probably the first time most viewers have been made aware of what Republicans have planned if they take over.

Posted by: Kris on September 9, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

I live close to where the president spoke yesterday. I had by chance driven by the venue where he spoke at. The thing that I noticed was how many people were there to here him speak and the incredibly small (15 or 20) group of tea baggers with protest signs.
Just looking at the baggers close up and in person I was struck by a couple things. Most if not all of them looked to be over 55 years old and they were all white. They also were a pretty
dumpy looking lot. I'm not sure what that all means but they relly didn't look like they had enough energy to play a rousing game of croquet.

Posted by: Gandalf on September 9, 2010 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Way too late. No one will even notice. Almost everyone has given up on the guy, even folks who supported him two years ago.

Posted by: Jon Chinn on September 9, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure what's the point of even discussing whether it's too late two months before the election. Not exactly the basis of a sound GOTV effort.

Posted by: Stephen Stralka on September 9, 2010 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

"Aside from fulfilling a century-old liberal quest for health care reform..."

...with an industry-written (hi Liz!) pre-emptive bailout that will benefit the public only statistically while casting doubt on the value of HCR, just as his abysmal stimulus package guaranteed there can never be another.

"...instituting the most sweeping financial reform since the Great Depression..."

...exempting the SEC from FOIA requests in the process.

"...averting a Second Great Depression..."

...which is to say failing to end it.

"...getting us out of Iraq..."

...i.e. following through on the withdrawal negotiated by Bush Administration, while leaving uncounted, uncountable and unaccountable mercenaries remaining.

"...putting two liberals on the Supreme Court..."

(spit take)

"...reversing three decades of conservative decay in the regulatory offices of the government, instituting major reforms on credit card companies..."

Doing the minimum is an accomplishment now?

"...paving the way for lasting DADT repeal..."

...i.e. failing to repeal DADT, which will not be repealed.

"...securing equal pay for equal work for women..."

...signing Lily Ledbetter is indeed pretty much his totality of "liberal" accomplishment.

"...and ending the stem cell research ban..."

...after alternatives to fetal stem cells had been discovered.

"...what exactly has Obama accomplished?"

Secured kidnapping and torture of citizens as powers of the Presidency, expanded those powers to include murder, ensured that whistleblowers will be punished, expanded the phony war on terror into Yemen, doubled down in the graveyard of empires, expanded government secrecy, set the stage for eliminating Net Neutrality, got deeply in bed with BP (after getting deeply in bed with Wall Street)...shall I continue?

Movement conservatives eventually noticed that GWB was never a conservative at all, and wrote lots of books about how he destroyed the Republican Party. I wonder how long it will take the left to make the corresponding discovery on BHO?

Posted by: Forrest on September 9, 2010 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Jokebama's "one two punch"?

Realistically: "one two slap".

Posted by: Amused Amerikan on September 9, 2010 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

People pain have long memories.

Posted by: asleep at the helm on September 9, 2010 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

You're wrong Mr. Benen. Mr.Obama's speech will fail because what he says happens to be untrue. Here's what's happened.
Mr. Obama has clearly articulated and implemented domestic policies since his inauguration. Those policies have failed and are bankrupting the nation. The American people are opposing the vast majority of the administration's initiatives. The opposing political party, flawed as they may be, is presenting a logical, coherent alternative, one more in line with American values, and based on proven past performance.
Mr. Obama's speech will fail to change the political dynamic.

Posted by: Daniel on September 9, 2010 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK


Wipe your chin before crawling out from beneath Obama's desk. What absolute drivel. Yeah, he's reading the teleprompter with more passion now. Whooppeee. Obama is an absolute joke.

Posted by: Bob on September 9, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

He's an emasculated dilettante and his first response is to litigate, not fight. He's a pussy.

Posted by: 88 on September 9, 2010 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

"The president has a habit of going out of his way -- perhaps even too far -- to give his detractors and opponents the benefit of the doubt. He'll characterize Republicans as sincere but mistaken."

Do you really believe that? Google 'Obama Speech Republicans'.

I tried it and here's just one of a hundred examples of Obama's "habit", in His own words.

Hint: it's not the habit you are describing:

(From ABC News May 10, 2010):

After they drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want to keys back. No! You cant drive. We dont want to have to go back into the ditch. We just got the car out.

Theyve done their best to gum up the works to make it look broken. To say no to every single thing.

For example the president said that despite economic improvements recently Republicans are still falling all over themselves to argue otherwise.

Even if you agree with all of those statements, they completley disprove your assertion that "He'll characterize Republicans as sincere but mistaken."

Posted by: SeanNY on September 9, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Just words...just speeches", as Obama was heard to say during the campaign. If all of you libs think that Americans will ignore the disaster that's all around them thanks to the incompetent, narcissistic boy-king who pretends to be President, like The Who sang many years ago, "we won't get fooled again"!

Posted by: Dan on September 9, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

Little yet inept, late but inefficient, dba Obama came out swinging not a bat but a straw - as of today, dba Obama hit the %41 approval, i.e. he has gone over the point of return - his problem is that no matter what he dies or says, people have decided to vote him out from the house. Bye bye, hopey dopey, bye bye liberals - look forward for 2020 for your return -
Ciao -

Posted by: misanthropicus on September 9, 2010 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Ugh, I hate how some progressives talk about Obama as if he is their secrete lover.

Posted by: brutal! on September 9, 2010 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Obama will fail. When you dems ask him to pick a fight with 50% (or more) of the electorate, you are asking him to commit suicide. A president must find a governing majority. You cannot do this by picking sides.

Posted by: Brian on September 9, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

This is a typical inside the beltway analysis. Obama did badly because he could not offer the low attention span American public a plausible narrative for the often contradictory moves made on economic recovery. He also was too polite to his enemies (Ha!) and not listen to EJ Dionne (Ha!Ha!).

The reality is that the American people do not think the stimulus provided the bang for the buck, the healthcare bill was an extravagence in a tough time, and the cap and trade bill was a waste of time. Also it is pretty clear Obama has lost Reoublicans and Independents. The reason why the speech was good from a betlway point of view is that is get our the Democratic base. That is all that is left to save the election. Tht is why the venom was there. That was why he called out his enemies. The election will come down to base turnout and that is what he needs.

Posted by: Craig on September 9, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

Obama it is time for you to retire o, yes on
tax payers money at $400,000 plus a year.

It sure sounds from him like he doesn't want to
play the Prez anymore. He would rather go on
another vacation. I mean gosh I don't want to
play prez anymore it is so hard..... Cry, Sniff,
Cry..... A, a, and they call me a dog...Whaaaa,

obama needs to leave the White House

Posted by: U.S.A. on September 9, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

"My impression is Obama has a long history of letting the other side talk themselves silly and then stepping in and making his case."

Obama has never "made his case" on any policy except through the tiresome and transparent fraud of setting up straw men which misrepresent or exaggerate the opposition view and then knocking them over.

The independent voters have figured out that no matter what Obama reads from his teleprompter, he is incapable of governing except from the far left. Too little, too late indeed.

Posted by: Matt on September 9, 2010 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

The writers piece is a perfect example why the Progressives will have a bloodbath in November. They are either in complete denial or simply out-of-touch with the rest of the country.

Though the Progressives will desperately deny that this election is all about Obama, it is and they know it. Had McCain won, they may have lost some seats in the mid-term but not a bloodbath like they're gonna get on November 2nd.

This guy Obama is simply toxic and they are learning that little secret the hard way. I just wonder how many Dems sit around at night (crying in their Scotch neat), that they should have supported Hillary. I'll bet most of them.

Posted by: JungleCogs on September 9, 2010 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

The speech was the same old Obama! Finger pointing and blaming everyone. The Buck really did leave Washington when George Bush left, and Obama may believe in an open border with Mexico, but he sure isn't going to let "The Buck" find its way back into his White House.

Posted by: valwayne on September 9, 2010 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Poor Benen, in denial like the community organizer Prez who has caused more debt than all the Presidents from George to Ronaldus Magnus. The facts simply do not support the Prez' economic stats and many Americans are waking up to that fact. This guy and his Dem flacks in the Congress have scammed America now for almost 19 months. When Dems back away when the guy comes to union SIEU affairs to keep the thugs happy, we see a nice split coming in the DNC types. Strickland is sticking with Obama and the newest poll has John Kas. now up by 6 points. The more BHO blathers about his so called successes, the Dow weakens, voters flee and in 54 days, voters of all stripes will try to stop this huge socialist Alinskism that the Dems have foisted on America.

Posted by: Glenn Koons on September 9, 2010 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

What alternate universe are you living in? This empty suit and his policies have trashed the economy...and people are wise to it. Since when does government know more about business than business. If BO gave a crap about jobs, he would have been doing something positive from the start rather than wasting time on a social policy we didn't need.

Posted by: TJ in MO on September 9, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Obama's latest blame game is not going to fool anyone. His policies are disaster and most people know it. Getting histrionic about it just makes him seem even less presidential. I think probably he is doing this just to rally the base; from the comments here, it seems that it works in that regard.

Posted by: josiah on September 9, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

"Poor Benen, in denial like the community organizer Prez who has caused more debt than all the Presidents from George to Ronaldus Magnus."

FDR racked up a debt of $20 trillion in current dollars. Sure, most of it was World War II, which the right wing of the time thought was a war of choice, but still.

Posted by: Forrest on September 9, 2010 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

I must have been watching a different speech. He seemed petty, bitter, boorish and arrogant. He sounds like the playground bully who keeps whining because no one will play with him any more. In addition, he plays too fast and loose with the truth (to put it gently). It seems like all of the comments here seem to imply that Obama's problem is that he hasn't given enough speeches. I think we're all getting tired of the same old blame game speeches. What people are really looking for are results, and his results have been horrible.

Posted by: John Davis on September 9, 2010 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

Looks like the Republican trolls have heard of you, Steve. They come out of their hole every now and then to put forth their bile and negativity on your wonderful blog.

They do not have a leg to stand on.

We were losing 700,000 jobs a month when Obama came into office. The financial sector was on the verge of collapse. The economy contracted 7 % in one quarter.

President Obama acted boldly, got the best stimulus he could pass, and got to work dealing with other chronic, long term problems that have been plaguing our economy and country for decades (see Brian at 9:52 for details). As a result, the economy has been growing and private sector jobs are being added. No, recovery has not been as fast as anyone would want but we've been going in the right direction.

There are a number of things that annoy me about the Republican trolls: their refusal to make arguments that go beyond brute assertion, their sneering and negative tone, their unwillingness to acknowledge simple historical fact, their personal animus, their subtle racism (yes, folks, it is racist to call a black man a boy). It's hard to imagine any reasonably independent person enjoying listening to their spiel.

And that, I think, is the point of all their bile. By transforming what should be an earnest debate into a tawdry pissing match, they are alienating all those who might be interested in
participating in the recovery of our wounded country, the people who got involved in politics for the first time two years ago.

We cannot, we must not let these people win.

Posted by: JD on September 9, 2010 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

I had to read Mr. Benen's column twice and some of the comments to convince myself that he was not writing in parody.

The suggestion that Mr. Obama's rhetorical habit of creating outrageous straw man arguments (without naming an actual source) in order to advance his position is an example of "unrequited outreach" is outlandish. ("There are some who believe that the entire Government of the United States should be disbanded, the military dissolved, the borders opened...") Mr. Obama's teleprompter does not normally associate actual people with such statements because they do not exist.

The speech reminded me of George H. W. Bush's attempt to jumpstart the economy in 1991 by appointing Dick Cheney to be "economic czar." In other words, it smacks of desperation (mind you, this approach was superior to "Son of Stimulus" announced in Mr. Obama's speech.)

Posted by: Sensible on September 9, 2010 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

Remember that the DEMS have controlled BOTH the House and the Senate for THE PAST 4 YEARS.

In 2007-8 they wasted precious time filing bogus
"Stop the War" legislation rather than dealing with the Economy...for which they had a very real responsibility. They certainly own a significant
piece of our current situation.

Unemployment was 5% or so in 2006

Posted by: Al on September 9, 2010 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

Obama shoved his health care fiasco down our throats, and passed a finance rule overhaul that actually hurts more consumers than it helps. He took $900 billion in private sector tax revenue, and blew it propping up union government employees, leaving us with 20 million unemployed and unemployment at 9.6%. he's appointed avowed leftists to positions of great power, and his cabinet has the least actual business experience of any administration in the past 100 years. He's demonized every business group he can think of, and his drilling moratorium is makings more dependent on foreign oil, that has to be transported in thousands of ships that are a far higher risk to the environment than any well drilled in the past 60 years. He's proven his incompetence, and control of the house if not the Senate will go to the Republicans come January. His pace of regulatory change is so high, no one can figure out if it's safe to invest money, resulting in no new jobs. I can see November from my house.

Posted by: Dave C on September 9, 2010 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

Give me a break! Obama is rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. He has lied to the American people for two years now, and few even listen to what he says. Even fewer believe a word he says.

Obama may be able to rally some of his inner city supporters to vote. The unions may get some of their members to vote as well, but it will be a drop in the bucket compared to the majority of Americans who are enraged at the arrogance of Obama and the Dems for trying to force their agenda on them despite their strong opposition. There is nothing that Obama can do to overcome that. The Dems will just have to take their punishment for their arrogance.

Posted by: SamAdams25 on September 9, 2010 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

"President Obama acted boldly, got the best stimulus he could pass"

A) Only if making concessions is bold, and B) a stimulus that is mathematically too small to work is actively counterproductive.

Posted by: Forrest on September 9, 2010 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

I see the local chapter of the "Young Republicans" is out in force! Or should that be "farce"? Even with the job situation being what it is, don't you guys have SOME standards?
To get back to the topic: it's only too late if the polls are closing. The President and the Democrats in Congress have given the Republicans nearly two years to act like responsible elected officials and they have spurned every offer made.
Fine, that's what should be in every speech made by any Democratic candidate or official for the next two months. Sandwiched in between what we Democrats have accomplished (nay-saying so-called "progressives" notwithstanding) and what we want yet to do, of course.
And is there any place that is monitoring whether or not LOCAL news outlets are airing candidates' speeches, meetings, etc? As the campaign heats up, I fully expect the MSM to finally start covering it, but many people still get most of their news from local sources.

Posted by: Doug on September 9, 2010 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

"A stimulus that is too small to work is actively counterproductive."

First, every objective observer (CBO, Moody's) has said that the stimulus did work, creating exactly the number of jobs that it said it would (at least 3,000,000).

Second, read Time magazine to see how transformative the stimulus has been on a number of fronts.

Third, your statement is incoherent.

I truly wonder if some of the "progressives" who carp about President Obama on this blog actually want the Republicans to win.

Posted by: JD on September 9, 2010 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

Fascinating to read. Mr. Benen, of course, is such a partisan that you cannot expect objectivity.

The judging of speeches is one of the most subjective exercises. And, of course, political bias clouds attempts at judgment. It seems like all liberals loved the speech. All conservatives hated it. Most neutral or objective people judged it more of the same.

I had my own reactions:

1. I think Predident Obama has mostly lost his ability to influence Americans with a speech, or perhaps otherwise. He was such a good speech maker during the campaign, and he has lost the touch or at least is perceived to have lost the touch.

2. Regardless of how good the speech was, who was listening? Any voters who have not made up their mind? He goes to Ohio and gives a speech. What is the effect? What was the effect in Virginia, New Jersey and Massacuhussetts last year?

3. It obviously is not too late for individual elections to change, and maybe not too late for some movement generally in the election. Many house elections are very close. But Obama is not running and how can a few speeches by him be expected to have a big change on about 500 elections? He could not change, or even help, single elections in Va., N.J. or Mass.

4. Perceptions of Obama and the democrats are pretty set. There have been very big issues on which they have been on the unpopular side. How do you change that with a few speeches or tactics.

5. Does anyone else find if a bit uncomfortable to see our president out there in an election where he is not running making harsh attacks on opponents? Essentially yelling that republicans and those who support them don't care about the "middle class." Have past presidents done that in mid-term elections.

6. I am even skeptical about bring out the base arguments. He gives a speech, leaves town, and life moves on. And, to the extent he excites the base, how much does he also excite the opposition.

Sorry to go on so long. I just doubt that Obama can do much to help democrats at this point and am amazed at how a speech or two can so excite the supposed partisan experts such as Mr. Benen and E.J. Dionne. Do you think they are sincere, or just cheerleading?

Posted by: Kansas City on September 9, 2010 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Here is an honest and objective assessment of the speech from an Obama suporter at the Huffington post - it is detailed and very good especially on this issue - after two years as president, the voters are interested in deed, not words:


Posted by: Kansas City on September 9, 2010 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

If the writer thinks that Obama's rhetoric and actions have represented outreach to the Republicans, he is simply delusional. I see them as hostile and demeaning in the extreme, and designed only to overwhelm and discredit the opposition. The Cleveland speech is just an escalation. The references to Boehner are right out of Orwell's "1984" -- "hate, hate, hate!!!"

None of this will work, as we will all see in November. I will certainly do my small part.

Posted by: Mickey Kovars on September 9, 2010 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

it's the economy, stupid...

Posted by: jks2 on September 9, 2010 at 10:57 PM | PERMALINK

Obama has made real progress? I'm 69 years old, my life and financial health were both better before O. So don't tell me the POTUS and Democrats have made real progress. Their spending habits would have any individual who spent more to get out of debt in bankruptcy. The difference is the government just cranks up the printing press and prints more worthless paper, taxes the he** out of everybody, and tells us life is better. What utter hogwash!

Posted by: Ct Bob on September 9, 2010 at 11:10 PM | PERMALINK

@CtBob: "The difference is the government just cranks up the printing press and prints more worthless paper, taxes the he** out of everybody, and tells us life is better. What utter hogwash!"

Read your median income statistics. Red staters have less money before taxes than blue staters have after taxes. Red states are business friendly while blue states are worker friendly. That's why you're economically miserable, not because of federal taxes or federal spending.

@JD:"First, every objective observer (CBO, Moody's) has said that the stimulus did work, creating exactly the number of jobs that it said it would (at least 3,000,000)."

The phrase you're looking for is the vastly more ambiguous "created or saved". And as A) the stimulus is now running out, and B) it wasn't big enough to fill in the gap that a stimulus package is intended to fill (and thus actually lift the economy out of recession), a great many of those three million will be going away shortly. Since the package necessarily failed, is also perceived to have failed (not the same thing), and because the Democrats haven't got the guts anyway, there will not be a right-sized one -- ever, in fact, because doubt has been successfully cast on the very notion.

Posted by: Forrest on September 9, 2010 at 11:50 PM | PERMALINK

Please President Obama, come to my state. The Democrat for Senator is only down 4%. I'm sure with your help, he'll drop another 6% points easy.

Posted by: tpaine on September 10, 2010 at 12:27 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has done much with what he's had. that is both the good news and the bad. He is the only President that i am aware who has gotten progressively less popular with each passing bill, appointment, and position that he's taken. He is so over-exposed - no one listens to him. No one trusts him to keep his word because all of his words have the ring of campaign promises. I regret thinking to myself when he was elected "how much damage can he do"? I was very wrong.

Posted by: Prostheticlogos on September 10, 2010 at 12:39 AM | PERMALINK

I think it is true that no one but true believers are listening to him at this point, so Benen's and Dionne's excitement about his speeches is, even if their love of the speeches was justified, misplaced.

Obama and his folks must realize there is very little he can do to change election results at his point. He can raise money. Maybe he can help Reid squeak through. If the republicans are stupid enough to nominate O'Donnell in Delware, he could help Coons make it. He might help Boxer in California. I don't know where else.

Posted by: Kansas City on September 10, 2010 at 3:34 AM | PERMALINK

"The president has a habit of going out of his way -- perhaps even too far -- to give his detractors and opponents the benefit of the doubt."

You've got to be joking. He cynically misrepresents Republican positions with that conveniently ambiguous "some" and he insults or ridicules the right half the country almost every time he speaks in public. He set the tone in his very first primetime t.v. address, when he asserted that "some" conservatives just want to "blow up" the public school system. I was stunned to hear that kind of incendiary rhetoric from the President.

Some Democrats have gotten so used to saying absolutely anything they like about Republicans, no matter how base or baseless the accusation, that they hardly notice how deeply offensive such language and insinuations of bad faith are anymore.

There's a reason Obama has been a notably polarizing President, and it's not because he's tried "to emphasize areas of agreement."

Posted by: JM Hanes on September 10, 2010 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with JM about the astonishing nature of Benen's claim that Obama gives opponents the benefit of the doubt. He is constantly attacking his oppoenents and unfairly characterizing their position, lately, that they don't care about the middle class.

Here is another good take on the speech and how Obama no longer is an effective speech maker. It is odd, but I suppose it is largely the difference between running for office and doing the job.


Posted by: Kansas City on September 10, 2010 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

It's poignant alright.
Pungent to the smell.

Posted by: xcon on September 10, 2010 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK
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