Carpe Diem

    Isaiah J. Poole, "Message to Obama: Go Bold on Jobs or Go Down In Defeat", Campaign for America's Future, yesterday.

    ....Obama is failing to communicate a compelling economic agenda for change. The Tuesday night town hall debate may be the president's last chance to position himself as the change agent that the voters demand. And the key to doing that is convincing voters that it is he, not Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who will move the country toward a full-employment economy.

    "In the first debate, Obama did not make a bold case for the bold policies he would offer in the next four years," the memo, written by Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Erica Seifert, said. It goes on to say, "Obama lost the attention of independents and unmarried women when he spoke about economic progress or talked about the progress of the last four years. With most of the President’s surrogates saying, 'give him more time to finish the job' and with the President closing the debate almost making the same small offer, Romney got the opportunity to be heard as the voice of change."


    In other words, Romney is selling a bland product to the middle class with slick marketing. What Obama is selling strikes voters as more of the same that they have been getting for the past four years: a plodding and uncertain slog out of the deep crater of the 2008 financial crash through the Washington thicket of partisan obstruction and occasional deal-cutting.

    While the slogan of the campaign is "forward," Obama is in danger of losing the argument over whether he has the stuff to actually move America to a different place from where it is today.

    Democracy Corps' polling on how competing economic narratives resonate with voters shows that "voters do not want a continuation; they want change. Indeed, they want bold change – and they are hoping that is what the president has in store."

    By more than a two-to-one margin—67 percent to 29 percent—voters in the Democracy Corps survey say major changes are called for to solve America's problems. And there is no ambiguity on what Americans see as the number one issue: jobs (51 percent, compared to 43 percent for government deficits).

    One message that has the potential of galvanizing voters includes the statement that "trillions of dollars of capital is idle and millions are unemployed, and that's wrong. We need to put this money and people back to work right now rebuilding our nation's energy, transportation, and water systems. This is the best way to grow the economy and reduce our debt burden." In Democracy Corps' polling, 64 percent agreed with this statement.

    President Obama in fact has a specific proposal that would begin to do just that: the American Jobs Act. If it had been passed when Obama first introduced it in 2011, Macroeconomic Advisers estimated that this year it would have lowered unemployment by 1.3 million, likely bringing the unemployment rate closer to 7 percent or less. It was stonewalled by Republicans in Congress wedded to an agenda of tax cuts and deregulation for the 1 percent and austerity for the rest of America, and Romney has cheered them on.

    The American Jobs Act is frankly best viewed as a down payment toward the full-employment agenda the country needs. Nonetheless, it is time for Obama to put the blueprint upon which the American Jobs Act was based at the forefront of his campaign. First, he should declare that 12 million jobs are not enough in four years, because they aren't. That would still leave unemployment at an unacceptably high 6 percent or more in 2016, with unemployment rates still in double digits among African Americans and Hispanics, and in a significant number of urban and rural areas. We must do better than that, and we can.


    I disagree with the implication of the title of this article--that Obama will lose unless he "goes bold" for his close.  He may win even if he doesn't.  Of course I could be entirely off base, but I think his chances go up if he does, in ways that are consistent with what he has done some of, but hasn't emphasized nearly enough--particularly the American Jobs Act. 

    He supported that bill.  He called on Congress to pass it now (then).  The Republicans blocked it.  Now is a heck of a good time to press this issue as one he will press going forward.  It also makes a very specific point, on an issue of overriding importance to the voters, as to why they should give him a constructive Congress to work with beginning in January 2013.

    Now is the time.  The relatively few people who have not made up their minds, who may be persuadable, are paying attention right now.  I would think viewership for tonight's debate, given what transpired at the first debate (where it did indeed change the dynamic of the race and put it in a different place right now), should be high. 

    So, Mr. President, please give the people watching more, and a little more specific, reasons for grounded hope that a 2nd Obama term is more clearly likely to lead to forward motion, with a Congress committed to investing in America and creating jobs here in the US.  Doing so hardly requires you to shape shift the way your opponent does, just make some on-the-fly late campaign adjustments--in response to the realities of how the race is in a different place, right now.  Rope-a-dope, Romney is awful (he is, truly) may work.  But up your (very grounded, very concrete) hope game in lieu of over-relying on what is essentially a fear game premised on being able to get enough voters to see Romney for who and what he is. 

    It absolutely is not too late to do this.


    Dreamer, I'm thinking that the key to Obama winning this debate is to win the "theater" of it---which primarily means to get the audience on his side. New Yorkers are practical and have antennae for bull shit---all of which provides context to hold Romney accountable. To the extent that Romney fails to provide specifics and brings up a lot of new stuff overnight, he will lack credibility.

    As I mentioned in my post, the importance of women's rights in this debate cannot be overestimated. The stark realities of abortions being legal only with exceptions should be a startling revelation to the working women of New York, as well as in Ohio, Colorado and across the country. Exceptions are not exceptions, they are restrictions. The woman and her doctor are potential criminals. The burden of proof is shifted squarely upon the woman to prove her case---what father would allow his daughters to be caught up in such a legal nightmare as to have to prove her case. Obama has daughters, he won't allow it. Maybe if Romney had daughters he would think differently. Congressman Ryan said in Congress that the exception for a woman's health is a hole you could drive a truck through. It's crude and abusive language toward women and it proves that extremist Republicans intend to make this exception as restrictive as possible.  



    On your first point, I keep wanting to think O is capable of doing just that.  He can be very charming, in a way that comes off as a lot more earnest and natural than most politicians.  Damned hard for him to feel and be that way with all the stresses of the job--of course.  Tonight we may hope he rises to the occasion. 

    On point two, I agree wholeheartedly.  I defer to those who have data on whether/to what degree, this could move votes among the truly undecided or persuadable at this point.   

    It is so cliche now but that town hall debate where George HW was asked some question directly from the audience and he hesitated and said:

    I really do not understand the question...

    And Wild Bill just got up from his chair or from behind his podium and literally marched right up to the lady asking the question and said something like


    Forget the watch bologna, Bill won the election right then and there!

    Barry is good at that kind of stuff. Hell, his audience usually likes to back up his speeches with 'Amen' and 'yeah yeah' just as if he were a Black Preacher.

    I am scared to death to watch this theatre, but I probably will not be able to hold off.



    I'm in the same boat.  I'm nervous about it but I'll be chewing my fingernails and watching every minute of it.

    Oh, and thanks for reminding of that Clinton moment, Richard.  It was sensational!

    I won't be...for the same reasons.

    BTW, Dreamer, just want to get on record here. I think Obama should note Hillary's comments about being responsible, but then take the responsibility----the buck stops here. I think he defuses the Benghazi situation and sets up a great line of attack against Romney---a man who doesn't know about taking responsibility. Theme: Romney not responsible for poor governorship, not responsible for providing information, etc. We'll see.

    I honestly have no idea what Obama should do tonight. I don't see how anyone not making a millions a year could vote for Romney. That being said I'd like to see Obama say, "We have a problem with private equity firms buying up businesses, out sourcing and off shoring jobs, eliminating full time work for part timers with little or no benefits, or shipping the whole company over seas. We have a problem with owners and managers of these companies hiding their money in Swiss bank accounts or in tax havens in the Cayman Islands. We have a problem when millionairs and billionaires are paying less taxes than middle class Americans. We need to deal with the problems that Mitt Romney is an example of, not elect him as president."

    Too harsh? Probably, but I sure would like to see him say it.

    He can't say that but you just did and I love it, not least because it's true.

    My idea at the moment would earn an R rating for graphic violence.  Probably not helpful with undecideds.  So I shall, as Archie often suggested to Edith, stifle myself.  Yours definitely has wit and elegance attached to it.

    Isaiah Poole follows up today on his theme from yesterday, in "Was Obama Bold Enough? What He, and We, Must Do Next?", at

    Took our 16 year-old daughter along with me today when I voted absentee in person, here in northern Virginia.  She previously has had limited interest in politics.  But as I explained to her how crucial Virginia will be to the outcome of the presidential race this year, as well as to which party will hold the majority in the Senate, she is getting quite jazzed about it.  This was the 2nd day available to vote absentee in person.  The polling station was busy, with well-staffed tables for each party.  I passed on the fleeting fantasy  I had of asking the folks staffing the Republican table how they can sleep at night working for a party that stands for something so fundamentally un-American as attempting, in state after state, to throw up bogus obstacles to prevent minorities from casting entirely legitimate and legal ballots, and whose leading strategist belongs in prison.

    Thing is the average republican just doesn't think that's what they're doing. Most think they're actually trying to stop voter fraud. Limbaugh, Hannity, all of faux news keep telling them its a big problem and they believe  it. Yes I know, voter fraud is the myth the leaders use to prevent minorities from voting, but you'll never convince the average republican of that. In fact you probably won't convince the average American that voters shouldn't have to show id to vote.

    I'm a firm believer in fighting the battles you have a reasonable chance of winning. Our focus should be on getting people ids.

    The alternative in my mini-reverie is that I place a copy of Greg Palast's Billionaires and Ballot Bandits (doing well BTW; in addition to a cartoon booklet wrapped inside, it even has a subtitle some may find seductive) on their table and invite them to partake.  Why should Democrats be the only ones to have opportunities to experience cognitive dissonance?  The stuff Palast chronicles in that book is outrageous and will be offensive to many people with typical sensibilities, of whatever political persuasion.  I believe it would churn the stomachs of many, many Republican voters in this country as well.  It might even cause some to look at things in a different way.  I realize that is an unfashionable view which invites derision in some quarters.

    Palast does not believe that reasonable requirements to present legitimate ID amount to inappropriate attempts to "suppress the vote".  Neither do I.  None of his book is about that.  He notes that voting by a non-citizen is a crime with serious repercussions for those who try to do it, suggesting this may be a reason why this almost never happens.  (All of which you know--this is for folks reading who may not know this.)  Among his practical action recommendations to increase the chances folks will be able to vote, he says that if the issue is not having proper ID, then--go back home, get proper ID, and come back to vote.  Which is one of the things I am advising folks in my circles as well. 



    So glad you took your daughter to see how the system is supposed to work, and how important it is to be a part of it.  My dad started taking me to the polling places when I was a little girl, long before I knew what was going on, but I understood at some level that what he was doing was an American rite that shouldn't be missed. 

    It could be because he was a naturalized citizen (from Canada), but he took his right to vote very seriously.  (Unlike my mom, who never voted)

    But I'm curious about the Republican and Democratic tables in your polling place.  In Michigan all politicking and pamphleteering has to stop something like 100 feet from the door.  Are they there handing out materials?  What's their function?

    Yes, in Virginia there is a similar requirement.  Volunteers at or near the tables offer sample ballots to people coming in to vote.  I've staffed these tables a number of times and have had some interesting experiences.  I work at being pleasant ("work" because I am an introvert in the classic sense of the term), come what may.  Some folks coming in to vote mask which way they're going to vote but many will offer a smile or pleasantry at their table of choice or to me on their way in or out.  Our precinct has moved steadily towards D's in recent decades and years to where it is has been 55-60% D in recent elections.  

    Krugman, "The Secret of our Non-Success", yesterday:

    The U.S. economy finally seems to be recovering in earnest, with housing on the rebound and job creation outpacing growth in the working-age population. But the news is good, not great — it will still take years to restore full employment — and it has been a very long time coming. Why has the slump been so protracted?

    The answer — backed by overwhelming evidence — is that this is what normally happens after a severe financial crisis. But Mitt Romney’s economic team rejects that evidence. And this denialism bodes ill for policy if Mr. Romney wins next month.


      Which brings us to the politics.

      Over the past few months advisers to the Romney campaign have mounted a furious assault on the notion that financial-crisis recessions are different. For example, in July former Senator Phil Gramm and Columbia’s R. Glenn Hubbard published an op-ed article claiming that we should be having a recovery comparable to the bounceback from the 1981-2 recession, while a white paper from Romney advisers argues that the only thing preventing a rip-roaring boom is the uncertainty created by President Obama.

      Obviously, Republicans like claiming that it’s all Mr. Obama’s fault, and that electing Mr. Romney would magically make everything better. But nobody should believe them.




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