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September 08, 2011 3:20 PM The start, not the end, of a process

By Steve Benen

David Corn has a good piece today, noting what happened in December 2009, when President Obama presented a series of ideas for job creation. The administration believed at the time that the recovery wasn’t moving fast enough, so the White House put together a package of ideas, delivered a big speech at the Brookings Institution, and asked Congress to get to work.

And then … nothing. At the time, much of the focus was on health care, and soon after, Massachusetts voters took away Senate Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority, which led many Dems in both chambers to lose their nerve when it came to improving the economy. The package of economic ideas was largely forgotten and ended up withering on the vine.

Corn’s point is that there was no real follow through from the president and his team, which is entirely true, and which ultimately doomed the plan’s chances. “That’s why,” Corn added, “what Obama does after Thursday night’s much-anticipated jobs speech before a joint session of Congress is just as important — if not more so — as what’s in the speech.”

A presidential speech is usually not the end; it’s the beginning of a process. Whatever Obama proposes on Thursday evening, the actions he takes afterward will be critical. […]

Spearheading a jobs push will entail more than speechifying. The president will have to find methods to mobilize constituencies and voters to join him in pressuring Congress. He will have to do more than just repeat the call he issues on Thursday night. No doubt, much of what Obama suggests will be DOA with congressional Republicans — especially the tea party wing — who can be expected to continue insisting that what ails the economy is Obama and government spending. In the face of this fierce opposition, Obama will need to create an ongoing narrative that engages the media and citizens. This probably will require dramatic steps to cut through the usual clutter of the political world, and such actions won’t come unless the president and his aides are truly committed to this priority.

A speech can grab the attention of the political class and voters for a day (sometimes longer if there’s high-schoolish bickering over its scheduling). More sustained engagement — which Obama was able to generate during the 2008 campaign — is a tougher task.

Jonathan Cohn made a similar pitch last week, arguing, “[T]he idea isn’t simply to give one speech. It’s to follow up the speech with appearances, radio addresses, executive orders; to coordinate these actions with the rest of the Democratic Party leadership; to rally validators from outside the party; and to do this over a lengthy period of time. The idea, in other words, is to wage an aggressive and sustained public relations campaign for new interventions into the economy.”

Time will tell, but I’m cautiously optimistic that the White House intends to show some meaningful follow-through on this. The fact that Obama will be in Richmond tomorrow to help sell his agenda is a step in the right direction, and the West Wing would be wise to make it the first of several such events.

And for what it’s worth, reliable sources tell me there’s going to quite a bit to like in tonight’s speech, at least from a lefty perspective, which should give those inclined to support the president’s something to fight for.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

Comments

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  • wordtypist on September 08, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Going to Richmond is a brilliant idea. It's Eric Cantor territory and a brief mention of funding for natural disasters could work well.

  • T2 on September 08, 2011 3:51 PM:

    giving the lefty's something to fight for would be a welcome Change. But really, regardless of how wonderful and doable any plan for jobs Obama could announce, it is still going to be DOA in the House. They want him to fail and will take us all with him if that's what is needed. Sad, but true.
    Cantor may make noises like he's willing to deal - but he's a liar.

  • KC on September 08, 2011 3:55 PM:

    Well, we'll see. At this point, I've sort of already gotten my head around the phrase, "President Romney."

  • c u n d gulag on September 08, 2011 3:57 PM:

    President Obama needs to throw the left at least a few bones, instead of giving us the finger.

  • sjw on September 08, 2011 4:16 PM:

    Obama should do the Sunday talk shows. And hold a news conference every single day after that on the jobs issue.

  • pol on September 08, 2011 4:20 PM:

    I have to make phone calls for my favorite state senator (I live in Virginia; we have elections this year...), but I'm going to cut that short and come home and watch the speech.

    And for what it's worth, reliable sources tell me there's going to quite a bit to like in tonight's speech, at least from a lefty perspective, which should give those inclined to support the president's something to fight for.

    I've been wondering why the info on the jobs program leaked out, if the Prez didn't want Republicans to have his plan in time for the debate. Was that a ruse, Steve?

  • SecularAnimist on September 08, 2011 4:42 PM:

    Steve Benen wrote: "... should give those inclined to support the president’s something to fight for ..."

    Let's hope it gives Obama something to fight for. That would be a first.

  • Mitch on September 08, 2011 4:43 PM:

    "... there’s going to quite a bit to like in tonight’s speech, at least from a lefty perspective ..."

    I hope so, Steve. But I am not holding my breath. I have heard this too many times, even before the Republican resurgence in 2010. Democrats have a real bad habit of shooting themselves in the foot.

    We couldn't even fight for this Job Creation idea simply because we'd lost one single D in Congress. Tell me, are the Republicans crippled when THEY lack a filibuster-proof majority?

    Nope.

    Republicans stick together and they support their agenda with utter devotion. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, doesn't even seem to have an agenda. Only a handful of the Dems in Congress fight for Progressive ideals and Obama apparently doesn't stand for anything beyond some vague bipartisan pipe-dream.

    So, taking the recent past into consideration, I have no faith that tonight's speech will matter at all. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that Obama blows me out of the water and that the Dems make a real push against the vile Repug philosophy.

    But I hoped that we wouldn't cave and give the Repugs two more years of the Bush Tax Cuts. I hoped that Health Care Reform would be Progressive. I hoped that the Left would benefit in some way from the Debt Ceiling debacle.

    So while I hope for the best, I expect the worst; and it is Obama's job to prove me wrong. Or to prove me right once again, and give the Republicans even more of what they want.

  • jjm on September 08, 2011 4:52 PM:

    My question is why House Democrats seem to have been so pusillanimous? And that Senate kowtowing to the GOP at every turn...

    Even now, when word is out that they are proposing on the Super Committee to RAISE the age requirement, it is completely chilling, and it will turn off just those very voters who are about to turn 65 and are hoping to save the $1700-2500 PER MONTH they are currently paying for health insurance.

    They should have lowered it to age 50 when they had the chance and Joe the Idiot Lieberman refused.

    But still, why give this one advantage they have over the GOP away? For what????

  • birnychicago on September 08, 2011 4:53 PM:

    So you're "cautiously optimistic" about something Obama might do? Isn't it pitiful that any hope we might have that this incompetent, spineless weakling might do something meaningful has to be expressed in a way that seems like you don't even want anybody to hear it, because you know it won't happen? I voted for him, and what a disaster he has turned out to be. Hillary in 2012!

  • Camus on September 08, 2011 4:56 PM:

    I know it was a throw away line but it isn't apparent that Obama ever had a filibuster proof Senate. Franken wasn't sworn in until July and Brown won 6 months later. In between to be filibuster proof Obama would have to rely on the votes of people like Lieberman or Nelson or Prior and several others. Counting on that group to break a filibuster is far from certain.

  • Mitch on September 08, 2011 5:00 PM:

    @Camus

    You are 100% correct. I recall that - at the time - I was extremely disgusted by the way we kissed-up to Lieberman no matter how many times he stabbed us in the back.

    The more things change...

  • EriktheRed on September 08, 2011 5:01 PM:

    Time will tell, but I�m cautiously optimistic that the White House intends to show some meaningful follow-through on this. The fact that Obama will be in Richmond tomorrow to help sell his agenda is a step in the right direction, and the West Wing would be wise to make it the first of several such events.

    I'm NOT optimistic about anything the Prez will have to say. Not anymore. I'm open to being proven wrong, though...

  • bardgal on September 08, 2011 5:33 PM:

    @Camus

    We never had 60 votes even for a micro-second. Please see this handy time chart:

    http://blog.reidreport.com/2011/07/myth-of-progressive-majority/

    Then please shove that in everyone's face who continues to moan about when the "dems had control over everything" which was, oh, NEVER.

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