There is squabbling in the White House. President Obama’s approval rating has dipped to unprecedented lows in the polls, and he has not a clue what to do about it. Within the president’s team there are the pragmatists led by David Plouffe and William M. Daley, who favor small gestures. I mean really small gestures. They would favor free-trade agreements, possibly with Gabon, perhaps the Maldives. They also favor improved patent protections for investors, assuming they can find investors, and something about Michele’s garden. At least I thought it was about Michele’s garden. At any rate, it was small. Maybe they were advocating growing cherry tomatoes.
On the other hand, there is the president’s chief economic adviser, Gene Sperling, who is himself a small man, but he advocates big initiatives. Citing public anger with Republicans over the debt-ceiling debates, he is for big, bold new initiatives, the New York Times tells us. He is not all that convincing about the public’s anger with Republicans, but he is for big initiatives, such as tax incentives for businesses that hire the unemployed. Why they would hire the unemployed if they have little work for them I am not clear. Do they do it for tax incentives? Sometimes I get the idea Mr. Obama gets the chief economic advisers a community organizer deserves.
The best example of the big ideas these clowns are thinking about is that the administration will create a new department in the federal government called something like the Department of Jobs or the Department of Competitiveness. I kid thee not. It would include the Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative along with certain economic divisions of the State Department. And why not throw in the Department of Education and perhaps the Marine Band?
Obviously, this administration is making heavy weather of it, and things will be getting worse. I do not like to belabor a point that I have been making for a year now, but Barack Obama is the least experienced man ever to be president. He also is about the most ideological man ever to approach the presidency, and the combination of inexperience and pigheaded ideology does not make for a very good president.
In the meantime, over the weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry declared his candidacy for the White House. Declaring it is “time to get America working again,” he cited the figures of unemployment and low growth - growth is lower than 2 percent. At this time in the recovery cycle of President Reagan it was 7.1 percent. Mr. Perry is the longest-serving Texas governor, and it is a plus that he governs that state. Texas, according to the Dallas Federal Reserve, has created 37 percent of all the new jobs created since the recession ended. A little more than a year ago, Texas was being compared to California, favorably. Texas is the big state that works. California is the big state that is dysfunctional.
With unemployment being the main issue in next year’s election, Mr. Perry has a very good message. He can link his state’s record of low taxes, controlled spending and tort reform and challenge whatever ideas come out of the White House squabble over big ideas or small ideas or Michele’s garden. Whatever ideas the White House trumpets, it still will be burdened with high unemployment and low growth - possibly no growth - in 2012. Moreover, Mr. Perry appeals to both the fiscal conservatives and the social conservatives, while his background in the Air Force will not hurt him on the national defense issue - a very big issue in light of our president’s foreign-policy disasters.
Meanwhile, another strong issue for Mr. Perry is energy. He comes from the state that has energy on its mind. He has spoken about natural gas and seems to understand as no one running for the presidency does that we have discovered enough natural gas in the country to change the rules of the game. If our natural gas can be used effectively, it can make us independent of foreign oil, allowing us, not the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to set the price of oil. It is both a domestic energy issue and a national security issue. What the governor has to say about the issues will be of great importance in the months ahead, not the least of which is how to develop natural gas. Only he is equipped to talk about it as a source of energy and a national security matter. While the White House squabbles, I shall be listening to Mr. Perry on the issues.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).