When Obama took office, the economy was losing about 750,000 jobs a month and heading for another Great Depression. The recession ended (at least for a while) and we now are adding several thousand jobs a month — anemic growth, but an awful lot better than the alternative. How did that happen? Luck?
Notice the extraordinarily low bar for a not-bad president: merely ceasing to lose 700,000 jobs per month. Why are we not losing 700,000 jobs per month? Because we hit bottom, and we are now “bouncing along the bottom,” a phrase recently used to describe the housing markets. From Alter’s perspective, this current stagnation is the best anyone could possibly hope to “enjoy.” He’s Jack Nicholson arguing that this is as good as it gets.
Now, the thrill is gone for Chris Matthews, and even he’s incredulous that the administration has been effectively forced to make this argument:
What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term? Would he tell us? What’s he going to do in his second term? More of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where are we going? Are we going to do something in his second term? He has yet to tell us. He has not said one thing about what he would do in a second term. He never tells us what he’s going to do to reforming health care systems, Medicare, Medicaid? How he’s going to reform Social Security. Is he going to deal with long term debt? How? Is he going to reform the tax system? How?
Undoubtedly Obama fans will argue that those of us who gripe that Obama spends too much time campaigning and fundraising and not enough time governing shouldn’t call on him to lay out his second-term plans. But therein lies the problem for Obama: why wait? How could Obama lay out some brilliant vision and then insist he couldn’t begin enacting it before January 2013? His only argument would be that he needs a Democratic House to enact the ideas — but the country experienced all-Democratic governance from January 2009 to January 2011 and decided it didn’t like that one bit in the midterms.
In other words, Obama has no compelling argument that his governance would dramatically improve in his second term. What you see is what you get. For America, our current circumstance is not “as good as it gets.” But in terms of what we’ve seen from our president . . . yes, this is as “good” as we’re going to get from him.