At this point in time, with the polls revealing almost all bad news, Mr. Obama should be on offense. The title above is a quote from Pres. Obama with Jon Stewart, which brought one of the biggest laughs of the night. What’s worse is the title of The Hill post today, which was given to them by Obama: Obama pleads for patience from Stewart on ‘Daily Show’. It’s the weakest midterm election year message I’ve ever heard delivered from someone who is supposed to be leading his party into battle.
“In fairness,” the president replied defensively, “Larry Summers did a heckuva job.”
“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart recommended with a laugh.
Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief “dude” pretty well captured the moment for Obama.
[…] “I think what I would say is yes we can, but — ”
Stewart, and the audience, laughed at the “but.”
Obama didn’t laugh. “But it’s not going to happen overnight,” he finished.
Try shouting that slogan at a campaign rally, dude.
Talking with Jon Stewart last night, Pres. Obama didn’t say the words “unemployment” and “jobs” until around 27 minutes into the program. He even invoked Larry Summers, saying “Larry Summers did a heckava job,” which brought a wry smile from Stewart with the retort, “You don’t wanna use that phrase, dude.” Obama seemed to pause to recalculate, then said “pun intended.” But clearly it wasn’t. The entire conversation with Stewart was an exercise in self-defense for Obama himself, not one word was said about Sharron Angle or any of the Tea Party opponents and their tactics or philosophy, nor did Obama give Dems one talking point or sound bite that would make their case. It was a colossal collapse.
Contrast Pres. Obama to Joe Sestak, someone who is in the fight for a Senate seat that could still go either way. Talking with Lawrence O’Donnell, Sestak showed how it’s done and what a Democrat sounds like when he’s making the case. Here’s one part in particular that struck me (from the transcript):
Lawrence O’Donnell: now, you’ve also said, based on your 31 years in the navy, a commander of an aircraft carrier, everyone in the military is a democrat, they just don’t know it. i guess that means the absentee ballots from the military are going to be good for you. what did you mean by that?
Joe Sestak: we did it because it paid dividends to this nation of healthy productive warriors. when i was on the ground in afghanistan, there were healthy people on the ground. we don’t promote you above a certain rank unless you have a certain degree in education. come on in, learn a skill, have a pension. and so i said, everyone in military’s a democrat, they just don’t know it. because we invest in our people. but what we also do in the military, is hold that investment. our people accountable for the responsibilities. those wonderful men and women. and that’s what i think is the best of both sides. when the republican senator endorsed me, we don’t necessarily agree on anything. we can do principle compromise. find out how best to invest in people, but hold that investment accountable. and so that’s what i meant. and those two attributes like we did during the clinton era, those were the best way to move our nation forward. and we created 23 million jobs during that era. during the bush/ toomey era, zero jobs and doubled our national debt.
In the following segment, it didn’t take Ann Custer 27 minutes to get to what’s on likely voters’ minds. She’s running as a progressive in a New Hampshire seat that has been Republican-held for the last 100 years, minus 6 or 7 years.
Lawrence O’Donnell: in new hampshire’s second congressional district, ann custer’s primary opponent called her an unelectable progressive. at a debate she was asked, in a year when everyone understands the country is moring back toward the center if you were to become the nominee, would you try to distance yourself from your own positions? custer did become the nominee, stood by her progressive supporters, and is now actually leading her tea party republican opponent former congressman charlie bass. new hampshire democratic congressional candidate, ann custer. ann custer, you are a study for washington democrats, progressives, moderate democrats, they’re studying your candidacy and say, how is she doing this? progressives believe you’re succeeding because you are sticking with your progressive ideals, your progressive issues, and that compromising toward the middle of the party would be a mistake for you. that seems to be the case, so far, according to the polls, you are proving right. in new hampshire. how have you done this?
Ann Custer: well, lawrence, it’s all about the grassroots. honestly, this campaign is all about real people and real lives, and we’re focused here in new hampshire on creating good jobs. you know, congressman bass voted all those many years, 12 years, 15,000 votes in washington for all of those failed economic policies, encouraging companies to ship jobs overseas. new hampshire has lost 16,000 jobs to china. it’s more as a percentage of our total employment than any other state in the union. and it’s not what we want to be number one at. so i’ve been talking to families all across my district. 130 house parties, and i’ve just finished 30 diners in 30 days and i want to care more about main street than wall street. i want to care about creating jobs and helping working families. if those are progressive values, i am very happy and proud to stand for them.
Bot Joe Sestak and Ann Custer know what’s important to people and they make the case on what voters are interested.
Contrast that to Barack Obama, who is supposed to be leading Democrats. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, there can be no doubt Obama cares about voters, but his first thought, which was seen through his performance on the “Daily Show,” but in also stiff-arming Frank Caprio in Rhode Island, is about himself.
Democrats are going to experience massive losses next Tuesday. It’s not because of Democratic principles. It’s because of Barack Obama and the midterm message, which is more about saving his presidency than what the people want to hear from politicians right now. It’s about defending his own milquetoast policy prescriptions because he doesn’t believe in progressive answers, which not only haven’t worked, but don’t represent what real Democratic policy prescriptions, when applied without conservative compromise, can do for people.
This essay has been updated.