The Campaign Spot

Obama Embraces the Smallest of Small-Ball

From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt . . .

The Mini-Issue Presidency

Four days of the Buffett Rule, a couple of days on oil speculation . . . Today, Obama travels to swing state Ohio for an “official” — read, taxpayer-funded — event at Lorain Community College to spotlight its “Transformations Program for Computerized Numerically Controlled Machining” as a model worker-training program.


Then on Thursday, the President will welcome “the BCS National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide to the White House to honor their 14th championship and their exceptional 2011–2012 season.”

Remember the short-lived fixation on corporate jets? All over a tax provision that, if repealed, would bring in $300 million per year? The White House bullying summit? The phenomenal amount of time, effort, and energy spent on a treaty reducing our and the Russian nuclear arsenal?

Permit me to quote myself from March 2011:

[The White House bullying summit] reminded me of Bill Clinton’s sudden interest in promoting school uniforms after his own disastrous midterm elections. (Please, no jokes about Clinton’s long-established interest in schoolgirl uniforms.) It’s worth noting that when Bill Clinton made his school-uniform push in February 1996, the country was enjoying relative peace and prosperity. That month the unemployment rate was 5.5 percent and the economy created 700,000 jobs. The stock market was on a tear. The U.S. had no serious ongoing military conflict, though the Khobar Towers bombing and the frightening crash of TWA Flight 800 were a few months away.

In other words, I suspect voters are fine with a president playing “small ball” when there are no other major pressing problems. But unemployment is still high, the housing market is awful in most of the country, Qaddafi is crushing his opponents, our friendly regimes in the Middle East are wobbly, state capitals are going broke, and the deficit is $1.6 trillion this year. How much should the commander in chief be focused on school bullying?

At Hot Air, Allahpundit examines the latest round of hunting those nefarious “oil speculators” and tries to figure out what the White House is trying to do here:

What you’re seeing here, a la the Buffett Rule, is the White House hyping a small part of a potential solution with undue fanfare to get voters’ attention. Obama himself admitted recently that the Buffett Rule won’t do much to reduce the deficit but that didn’t stop him and Biden from delivering four speeches on it in four days. The public tends to assume, I think, that when the president carves out time to address a policy matter publicly, that matter must be important and pressing. If he addresses it repeatedly in a short span, imagine how much more important it must be. That’s why, I think, Paul Ryan described the Buffett Rule as “pixie dust” when it comes to deficit reduction: Obama’s never presented it as a magical solution but a low-information voter who isn’t tracking his every word may very well think it’s a magical solution given how much attention O seems to be paying it. Same thing here. We’ve got a Rose Garden ceremony, we’ve got Holder and Geithner standing beside the podium — obviously, to borrow a phrase from Biden, this is a big effing deal. But . . . it really isn’t. It’s just basic retail stagecraft designed to show that Obama’s doing something about gas prices, the 2012 equivalent of “message: I care.” Presumably Reid will push a vote on it sooner rather than later and the GOP will filibuster, and that’ll hand O a new talking point about the “party of oil speculators” or whatever.

Exit question: How many of these weekly or biweekly shiny policy objects do most voters remember on Election Day? They’re here for a week and then gone for two months and then back for a few days and then gone again. For instance, until Politico wrote about it this morning, I’d completely forgotten about Obama’s idea of a “windfall profits” tax on oil companies — and I’m someone who keeps up with politics day to day. Does any of this crap really register with voters, even in an impressionistic way (e.g., “Obama’s proposing solutions”)? How many voters on Election Day will be able to explain the Buffett Rule in a single sentence, or even in multiple sentences? The shiny-object strategy of campaigning seems less and less a strategy designed to win votes and more a strategy designed to give these endless campaigns something to talk about for a few days.

It’s a sort of Seinfeld approach, a presidency about nothing.

And yes, the . . . canine developments of last night make an appearance:

ADDENDA: If you thought the story of Seamus-on-the-car roof was going to hurt Romney among dog owners . . . let Jim Treacher introduce you to the game-changer.

Put it another way: All candidates who have never eaten a dog please step forward. Not so fast, Mister President…


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