The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

President Obama’s Perpetual Pivot


In the final days of the 2008 campaign, the conservative press/blogosphere were buzzing about Jeremiah Wright/Bill Ayers/Bernardine Dohrn and other signs of a radical past of then-Senator Obama, while the John McCain campaign was running “dedicated to a cause bigger than my own” biographical ads and the RNC was running fairly generic “Obama is inexperienced” ads.

There were times when the Venn diagram of the conservative grassroots and the GOP establishment overlapped more, but for much of that cycle, the two groups were singing from a different songbook.

In 2012, you’re seeing much greater message alignment between the conservative press/blogosphere and the campaigns and committees.

For example, among conservative blogs, the term “the Obama administration is pivoting to jobs” spurs eye-rolls and snickers. Last year I wrote:

Pivoting: A Form of Rotation Similar to Tilting at a Windmill

Ben Smith of Politico contemplates the Obama administration’s perennial pivot: “Mike Allen’s note this morning that ‘Dems plan pivot to jobs’ sounded awfully familiar to me, as it apparently did to the Republican National Committee, which promptly turned out a list of 15 occasions on which the White House had allegedly announced a similar pivot. That number is, shockingly, a bit inflated, but the underlying truth of the presidency is that through a mixture of choice — health care — and circumstance — the Arab Spring, the Japan earthquake — Obama has spent very little of his presidency publicly driving a conversation about jobs. By far the most serious jobs legislation he passes was the stimulus, but over-optimistic forecasts and implacable Republican opposition put the White House sharply on defense about it almost from the start. And the story of the Administration is, in no small part, one of a constant attempt to pivot formally to jobs. Emily and I identified what seem like six really attempts at it, with the seventh starting now . . .”

Keep in mind that inherent in the pivot-point talking point is an inherent excuse: The reason the administration hasn’t seen much success in bringing down the unemployment rate, or is perceived to be useless in bringing down the unemployment rate, or hasn’t communicated its message about its efforts, is always a lack of time and focus. I think most of us would argue the problem isn’t really an administrative attention deficit disorder or chronic focus on other issues; the problem is the policies stink.

Too much of the stimulus money got spent on crap. It allowed states to put off fiscal reckoning between runaway expenditures and vastly overestimated tax revenues. Trade deals have collected dust for years while Obama’s team tries to find ways to placate unions. Fancy regulation-reduction panels are announced while the Federal Register grows thicker and thicker. Obamacare adds a whole new complicating variable into employer health-care plans.

“All right, now we’re really going to pivot to jobs, just you wait and see” sounds like the oft-heard pledges of dieting and exercise and saving money and cleaning out the basement and flossing; the idea that all it’s going to take is a bit more attention to the problem and it’s going to be solved. I don’t doubt that a lot of folks in the White House are worried about the unemployment rate. I just don’t have any faith that they have any real ideas to improve the situation.

This morning, the RNC unveils this ad:

Hard to imagine the Romney campaign wouldn’t hit the president on this point, as well.

Tags: Barack Obama , Jobs , The Economy


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