I was fairly pleased with the jobs speech last night, as I suspect the bulk of this community was as well. I also like what appears to be a tougher more pugnacious Obama 2.0. Hopefully he sustains it and I sincerely hope it works. He has a history of digging a hole and then extracting himself from it late-ish in the game. Look at his campaign as of September 14, 2008, the health care bill's passage, the lame duck negotiations. The outcomes on the latter two weren't great but they were fine, not real pretty to look at the process, but ok in the end. Can't say, though, that there wasn't a foreboding that the worst was yet to come.
Then came the debt ceiling fiasco. A real big hole. Now maybe the jobs speech and the American Jobs Act is the first step towards digging out of this hole, but Digby has a
great post from Friday afternoon that is very smart and very ominous. She explores how really deep the hole is.
If you want, you can skip my inadequate commentary and just go ahead and link to Digby's post.
But if you want, indulge me for a minute. Digby linked to a Charlie Cook item that discusses this 36 page power point from a Republican pollster named Bill McInturff. McInturff's work is pretty sensible, as both Cook and Digby observe, and really offers a lot to think about. He recaps a lot of surveys about how repulsive the public found the debt ceiling negotiations, and conducted focus groups that reinforced these findings:
People report a deep sense of gloom about the economy.The absence of hope the economy might get better drives the sense of despair they are feeling about what is ahead.
Not pretty. McInturff thinks that the debt ceiling ugliness is an inflection point (he calls it a "signal event") that will leave a real lasting impact. Cook agrees -- and stresses McInturff's conclusion that this whole process led to a collapse in confidence in both the president and congress and their ability to get anything done. Cook wrote this before the jobs speech and asked his readers to look at McInturff's work after hearing the jobs speech, and evaluate whether anything has changed.
Ever the optimist, I think that the jobs speech shows at least that the President gets it. Brilliant analyst and observer that she is, Digby draws much much more from all this. She quotes McInturff's conclusion and captures every bit of gloom in it
Historically, though, this type of deep voter anger, unease, and economic pessimism leads to unstable and unpredictable political outcomes
She rehashes what happened to cause this and has a great insight about the "lost moment" during the lame duck when he failed to nail down a debt ceiling deal. She thinks that the president didn't want to make a deal then:
However, it seemed clear to me from January on, when Cantor famously said the debt ceiling was a "leverage" moment, that the administration had decided that was their opportunity to pass the Grand Bargain. The debacle that followed was, in my view, mostly a result of that quixotic desire.
She goes on to capture the essence of what was so wrong: "What's more frightening than watching someone negotiate with terrorists -- and lose." So that's how big a hole he's dug himself in. Reading all these pieces makes me really nervous about what's ahead. But maybe the debt ceiling stuff was the presidential campaign as of September 14, 2008, and the jobs speech (with the actions that hopefully will follow) will mirror how well he and the campaign seized the moment after McCain's gaffe and rode it to victory.
We have ample reason to be pessimistic, but hopefully this time it's different. Krugman revealed that the administration gave him an advance copy of the speech, evidently not for his approval, but just because they wanted to accomodate his travel schedule and give him a chance to write his Friday column about the speech. The column was pretty, pretty positive. Maybe I'm naive to Washington's ways, but I don't think the administration would have been as accomodating to Krugman if they were going to give a weak tea jobs speech. Like I said, hopefully this time it's different. Otherwise we're looking at some really "unstable and unpredictable political outcomes."