August 31, 2011 [CLICK HERE to see proper format.]
Ever since he backed down and compromised with the Republicans in order to get an increase in the debt ceiling one month ago, President Obama has been looking weaker and weaker with each passing day. His recent bus tour through the Midwest did not unveil any new proposals or campaign themes, and one gets the sense that he is desperately floundering about, searching for solutions to the economic slump. He probably regrets his decision to agree to an extension of the Bush tax cuts last December, a conciliatory gesture that was not reciprocated by GOP leaders. (Well, did they really have any reason to do so?) It's quite a stunning fall in political fortunes from where he was six months ago, and his prospects for reelection next year are in grave jeopardy right now.
The latest example of weakness in the Oval Office came today, when Obama agreed to a change in date for a speech to a joint session of Congress, at which he will explain his plans to create more jobs and get the economy back on track. (One doubts that he even has a plan right now, but I'm sure that his staff of economists is furiously crunching numbers in an attempt to come up with one.) He had requested next Wednesday, September 7, but House Speaker John Boehner said there wasn't enough time to prepare the House chambers for such an event. A bigger reason was that the next Republican presidential debate is scheduled for that evening, and it looked like Obama was trying to divert attention from the GOP candidates, especially the new front-runner, Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Not smart at all. And so, the White House had little choice but to agree to postpone the speech until the next day. See washingtonpost.com.
As reported by politico.com:
That the White House sprang the speech on short notice to everyone isn't in dispute. The president's letter was leaked to the press shortly after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was told of the request.
Republicans were incensed.
In sum, it was a rather unseemly, insincere exchange between the two leaders, showing once again how deep is the chasm of distrust between the two parties.
More generally, Obama seems to be trapped, as his left-leaning core of supporters in Congress is putting heavy pressure on him to deliver on all those utopian promises he made during the 2008 campaign. He will have some very painful choices to make over the next twelve months. Every time he does something to appeal to the moderate or independent voters who were they key to his success in the last election, he risks alienating at least as many people in his own party. Voicing support for private-sector job creation comes across as lacking in conviction, as though he were being dragged in that direction against his will. His lack of experience and background in business and economic affairs is becoming more and more painfully obvious.
As for economic policy, the President just announced a replacement for Austan Goolsby as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors: Alan Krueger, a professor at Princeton University. Krueger's specialty is the labor market, an obvious indication of Obama's priority for the next year. See whitehouse.gov. Goolsby will be returning to the University of Chicago, having served less than a year in that post. He in turn replaced Christina Romer, who returned to teach at Berkeley. Three CEA chairpersons in three years (all of them academics, please note) is a very bad sign that nobody in the White House knows what to do about the economy. Perhaps the real question is How desperate is Obama getting?