What's All This Then?

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Thursday, September 08, 2011

I will probably watch the President’s "jobs" speech tonight but I don’t expect much will come of it. As I fantasized the other day, whatever he says will be criticized by Republicans and he has given them an extra opportunity to criticize by upping the ante from suggesting a new kind if stimulus plan - and I’m pretty certain that that is all it’s going to be - to a major speech before a joint session of Congress. I can almost agree with Republicans who are criticizing the venue to present his job creation ideas, calling it more of a political speech than anything else. Why he would choose the pomp and ceremony of a joint session to propose nuts and bolts ideas is beyond me. I’m not sure if it needs to be presented in a speech at all - but if it does, talking to us from the Oval Office would make more sense. No big announcements of his arrival. No one having the high privilege and distinct honor of introducing him. No interruptions with standing applause. No obligatory shots of Senators and Representatives - some showing or feigning interest and some scowling or shaking their heads.

I keep hearing pleas from the left for the President to "go big" - presumably to ask for Congressional approval of a larger spending plan than the amount we’ve been hearing in leaks. What I’d prefer to hear is the President telling the American people some plain truths. The first - that Presidents don’t have a magic wand that they can wave and create jobs. That all the political jargon about Presidents gaining or losing jobs is just that - political jargon. That presidents have some influence over employment numbers by way of economic policies - but for the most part, it’s a matter beyond their control.

The second thing I’d like him to say - and he probably won’t - is that the history of the industrial world is replete with periods of booms and busts and that when one of these extremes occurs in the shape of a recession or depression, societies have to step back, re-adjust and find new ways forward. And those new ways usually take time to take hold and that no instant solutions should be expected. But also yes, in such times as we are experiencing today, Government needs to step in and provide a bridge to fill the employment gap - we hope the temporary gap - left by the private sector - and that is why he is proposing whatever it is he will propose.

If he was giving the speech from some place other than in a joint session venue, he might be able to say it is time for Republicans to put their major agenda on hold - which, as Mitch McConnell has made crystal clear, not just with words, but with the greatest number of filibusters in the history of the Senate - is to prevent him from winning a second term. He’ll say something about the need for bi-partisanship and putting country before party - but at a joint sessions, he won’t say what I’ve written above. If he does, I’ll be impressed and swift to say how I’ve misjudged him.

Regrettably, his re-election or defeat will likely depend on the unemployment numbers in November next year. American voters have little patience and many will be fooled into believing that their fortunes can be improved by a simple change in the occupant of the White House. I thought Bill Clinton was a pretty good president but that his campaign them of "It’s the Economy Stupid" was a tip of the hat to the stupidity of voters - on which many political candidates rely - indeed hope for. And Obama is in further trouble because of his campaign of "Change is Coming to America" and "Yes We Can" - which attracted many young voters who didn’t understand the power of a single Senator to say "No You Can’t" - and the conservative Supreme Court to allow corporations to exercise almost as much veto power - and who still don’t understand why the President isn’t or can’t be the champion they voted for.

P.M. I watched. I listened. Pretty much what he’s said before. The reactions in the chamber were exactly as I described. Republicans may find a way to O.K. the proposed tax cuts but otherwise I expect the post-reaction to also be as I described.