WASHINGTON, June 4 2012 — Dear Mr. President, It’s time to unleash your inner beast. We know it’s in there. You’re the guy who sends in drones to make surgical strikes on the bad guys in Pakistan and Yemen, who unleashed the Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran, the computer virus that wrecked havoc on that country’s nuclear program, and who ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan.
Yet at home you have not played tough guy, but instead are more like the congenial professor, acting like Congress is composed of recalcitrant colleagues at a university that you can charm, coax and cajole into saving our nation’s economy. It took you three years to understand that compromise is not in the Republican vocabulary, or at least not the vocabulary of the New Republican Party.
So now the latest numbers show that the economy has slipped back with anemic job growth, taking us into the doldrums. You know what that means: Consumer confidence will continue to plummet (as it did by five points within 24 hours of Friday’s bad jobs numbers) and so will your approval ratings, both which translate into an even harder election battle for you.
Use the Presidential Bully Pulpit
However, we have to say, you have no one to blame but yourself. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. You missed your opportunity to be bold in your first year. Instead you stayed aloof from the battle and did not get out there, selling either the stimulus or the health care reform as they needed to be to the public. And this was a time when Americans would have been most receptive. You seemed to think that being on the side of the angels was enough and the rest would follow. That’s not political reality, Mr. President.
You had the bully pulpit and you could have herded your Democratic Congress into doing a better job, adopting a Paul Krugman or Robert Reich style stimulus. Instead, you settled for easy.
Those who fought for real health care reform with either Medicare for all or the public option were forced to settle for the half a loaf you told them to take, like it or not. They swallowed it, not liking it, and were frustrated that you did not define what health care reform was, instead of letting the likes of Sara Palin establish what it was about, i.e., death panels. And for the American people it sounded scary on many levels. Thus Obamacare was born.
In 2010 you and the Democratic Party did not do a hard court press to hold onto Congress. Again, you stayed above the fray, not wanting to get your hands dirty with politics so you didn’t meet much with Democrats and formulate strategy or a message, things the Republicans had in spades. Instead Democrats played defense and they lost Congress, “big time,” as Dick Cheney might have said.
Then in 2011, you let the Republicans further define you and the Democrats as the root cause of the soaring deficit, as the architects of the continuing Great Recession, despite having turned things round, and as a leader without a rudder to steer his own party. All the while, you played Charlie Brown to Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Lucy. How many times did you have to have Boehner snatch the football out from under you to understand politics is a contact sport?
Obama’s Jobs Package Thwarted by Republican Senators
Now we are almost six months into 2012 with GOP nominee Mitt Romney, and you are trying to rev up your game. But your basic problem remains, Mr. President: staying with a consistent message on jobs.
You had a jobs package, the one you sent to Congress last September. Remember? It had what would have been a shot in the arm to the economy. Here is some of what was in the $450 billion stimulus plan:
* Make a payroll tax cut worth about $1,500 a year to the average worker.
* Small businesses would get a tax cut if they hired new workers or raised workers’ wages.
* A tax credit to hire the long-term unemployed.
* Extend unemployment insurance for another year.
* Provide a tax credit to businesses that hire veterans.
* Invest in schools to save teacher jobs and modernize at least 35,000 schools.
* Reform our tax code, asking the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to pay their fair share.
What happened to this modest proposal to kick-start the sluggish economy?
Senate Republicans blocked your plan in October, 2011, slamming on the brakes for its chances by threatening to filibuster the bill by 50 to 48. Only 40 votes are needed to stop a bill with a filibuster.
At the time, Mr. President, you said, “Tonight’s vote is by no means the end of this fight. Independent economists have said that the American Jobs Act would grow the economy and lead to nearly two million jobs, which is why the majority of the American people support these bipartisan, common-sense proposals.”
But it was the end of the Jobs Act. You and Democrats dropped it like a hot potato.
You were not out there on the stump, calling out the Republicans and the errant Democrats to do the right thing for hardworking Americans. Yes, you refer to it now as an example of what the Republicans did, but the failed jobs act has not been the centerpiece of what you would do for America.
Lessons from Two Tough Democratic Presidents
And now the sagging job numbers that came out Friday show that the Republican strategy of allowing you to be the owner of all things bad for Americans is working. You need to be more like LBJ, who knew how to twist arms in Congress to get controversial legislation through, and he didn’t mind doing it personally. No surrogates.
Members of Congress in both parties were called to the White House and it was a hands-on approach, literally. How many times have you had even the leaders of the Democratic Party, much less the back benchers up to the White House for a one on one?
Obviously it is too late for the LBJ approach, but it is not too late for the President Harry Truman tactic of going to the American people and calling out Congress. He did it in an age that was pre-internet and fledgling TV. He did it by whistle stops from the back of a train. Truman was known as “Give ‘em Hell Harry.”
Americans respect strength and resolve. They hate wishy-washy and definitely loathe nuanced. Give them a sound bite to chew on, one that sums up the problem. Harry Truman made it simple and direct: Congress is the reason we can’t move this country forward. And it worked.
So unleash the inner beast, Mr. President. We know you have it in you. We see it at work in your steely-eyed foreign policy. Shed the nice guy skin and show us just how much you care about this country — because we know you do — and how angry you are at the Republicans who put have politics before saving the America.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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