Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Backward-Looking Campaign

It’s not surprising when Mark Steyn fact-checks an Obama campaign speech and finds it wanting.

Since the mainstream media seems congenitally ill-disposed to critique Obama, someone has to do it.

More frightening still is this: the crack White House staff seems utterly incapable of performing the most elementary act of fact-checking.

I don’t care if Barack Obama doesn’t know anything about Rutherford B. Hayes. Who, among us, can rattle off the major achievements of the Hayes administration? Yet, the White House staff should never allow the president to go out and claim that Hayes disparaged the telephone when, in fact, he embraced it.

If the presidential speechwriting team cannot protect the president from ridicule it should immediately be replaced.

I say this as a proud American. Since Barack Obama is our president any time he gives a speech where he mangles the facts he makes the nation look bad.

It is not acceptable.

But Mark Steyn is not alone in pointing out the factual errors in the Obama election campaign.

Posting on the New Yorker site, John Cassidy, surely a man who leans more left than right, points out that despite Joe Biden’s claims for the Obama campaign, Barack Obama did not bail out the American automobile industry. George Bush and Henry Paulson did.

Many Republicans would rather forget about it, but the point is well taken. And it is more important than knowing whether or not Rutherford Hayes is on Mount Rushmore.

If the Obama campaign wants to tout its bailout of the automobile industry as a signature accomplishment, it is in serious trouble.

I think we should feel heartened to see people on the political left be fair and objective in their appraisals of Barack Obama.

Most striking is William Saletan. Since Saletan writes for Slate I  assume that he leans toward the left of the political spectrum. I may be wrong because his analysis of the latest Obama campaign video does not bear the mark of political partisanship.

Saletan is writing about the new Obama campaign infomercial narrated by Tom Hanks. It’s called: The Road We’ve Traveled.

Saletan is saying, clearly and directly, that if this is the best the Obama team can put together, it is playing a losing hand. He sees Obama trying to bluff his way to re-election.

Saletan analyzes the campaign message:

Don’t forget how bad things were.

That’s the message of President Obama’s new reelection video, “The Road We’ve Traveled.” To the millions of Americans disappointed by Obama’s presidency, the video says: Things could have been much worse. In fact, they were much worse. They’re better now. Be grateful.

The video, narrated by Tom Hanks, begins with images of Obama and his family waving to supporters on election night 2008. “What do we remember in November of 2008?” Hanks asks as the camera pans the crowd's hopeful faces. “Was it this moment? Or this?” With a thunderclap, pictures of economic collapse flood the screen: Stock prices tanking, trading floors in chaos, empty store fronts, foreclosed homes. Hanks asks: “How do we understand this president and his time in office? Do we look at the day’s headlines? Or do we remember what we as a country have been through?”

The narration is solemn and elegant. The pictures are transporting. But the object is flatly political. Obama’s operatives don’t want you to judge him by your unhappiness with your present financial situation. Nor do they want you to judge him by the high aspirations you had for him in the summer of 2008. Forget all that hopey-changey stuff. They want to reset your expectations to the weeks after his election, when the economy was going to hell.

It’s not a morning-in-America theme. It’s a throwback to the past. It tries to induce people to wallow in the mire of a bad past, one that the Obama team did not seem to understand until it took over the presidency.

By now everyone should know that Obama’s claims to have “inherited” the crisis are completely lame.

By repeating that it inherited the financial crisis the Obama team seems to want us to feel sorry for them. Perhaps they are hoping to win the pity vote.

Those who reject the “inheritance” argument have been very clear about this. The Obama team did not inherit anything; it saw the crisis as an opportunity; it fought to have this opportunity; it wanted to use the crisis to enact fundamental reforms.

Now, apparently, these reforms have not produced very good results. The nation has soured to Barack Obama. So his campaign, as Saletan analyzes it, will involve massive blame shifting, a failure to take responsibility and rank dishonesty.

If you were a Democrat you would be very, very afraid.

It should go without saying but if the Obama team did not know how bad things were until January, 2009 then it was manifestly incompetent.

If Obama and his team wanted to manage a crisis, if they were applying to take charge, they should have grasped the situation it wanted to manage. If they did not know, then they look like bumblers.

Besides, much of the 2008 Obama campaign was based on the proposition that the Bush administration was very, very bad indeed.

It seems too obvious to mention, but the credit markets froze in October, 2008. Everyone with an ounce of economic savvy knew that the financial system was heading off a cliff.

Which part of catastrophic didn’t Obama understand?

Saletan’s point is very well taken. If the best the Obama campaign can do is to induce you to look back in horror then they are implying that they have nothing to be proud of.

Naturally, the campaign infomercial touts the Obama record on job creation. Saletan points out clearly that it distorts the record.

In his words:

On the screen, a dynamic chart shows the rate of job losses magically beginning to decline as “Obama takes office.” The chart focuses on what improved—the rate of job losses—rather than on what languished or worsened: the net job count and the unemployment rate. The color shifts from red to black at the moment of Obama’s inauguration, visually overriding the inconvenient fact that the employment ledger remained negative for more than a year.

So you have a backward-looking campaign, a campaign that is trying to rationalize its failures by blaming everything on the Bush administration. The film even blames the Obama budget deficits on the Bush administration.

It’s a bad strategy, one that bespeaks a failed administration.

For those who like to read hidden meanings, that is the hidden meaning of the Obama infomercial. Kudos to William Saletan for seeing it so clearly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for the Republicans to start the conversation about how we are going to stop Obama's voter fraud in November - we all know it's coming. One conspiracy is that he is paying hackers to manipulate electronic votes. Who knows if it's true, all I know is that seeing Obama or reading about him makes me feel like I have a thousand tiny spiders crawling on me. Icky Icky Icky.