- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 6, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“Now is not the time for the people you sent to Washington to worry about their jobs,” President Obama said at a Labor Day rally in Detroit. “Now is the time for them to worry about your jobs.” In all honesty, the real job Mr. Obama will be speaking about this week is his own.

Introducing a jobs plan before a joint session of Congress is a risky move for the White House. Speaking in such a high-profile venue raises expectations, and the plan will be expected to live up to the drama of the moment with some new and impressive content. Mr. Obama cannot simply repeat that Americans need jobs as if he is the first person to notice that. He will be expected to deliver something somehow.

Pre-speech details are sketchy but promise government activism. “We’ve got roads and bridges across this country that need rebuilding,” Mr. Obama said Monday. “We’ve got more than 1 million unemployed construction workers ready to get dirty.” Once again, the shovels are ready. He didn’t call for another trillion-dollar spending binge like that proposed by Rep. Maxine Waters, California Democrat, who claimed Sunday that a new round of massive government outlays would be “the only way to revitalize this economy.” Because the White House thinks food stamps and unemployment payments create economic growth, any proposed jobs plan probably will include substantial new expenditures, maybe just in the hundreds of billions. The country cannot afford it, but that was true the first time.

The presidential pulpit hasn’t been very bully for Mr. Obama lately. His July 25 speech on the debt ceiling was supposed to be a rallying cry to the American people to force Congress to raise taxes. But the people didn’t rally, Congress didn’t heed the call, and Mr. Obama emerged looking weak and ineffective. His Aug. 8 address seeking to calm markets after Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. credit rating also fizzled. Mr. Obama blamed America’s financial woes on “earthquakes, spikes in oil prices [and] slowdowns in other parts of the world,” but the markets didn’t buy it, and the Dow Jones industrial average closed 634 points down.

The political objective of Thursday’s nationally televised speech is to position Mr. Obama for the 2012 presidential race. The White House seeks to emulate President Truman’s come-from-behind victory in 1948, when he ran against a “do-nothing” Republican Congress. These days, the Senate is in Democratic hands, but no matter. The White House is buoyed by polls showing Congress suffering even lower approval ratings than the unpopular president. Mr. Obama, however, isn’t facing Congress in next year’s presidential election, and in a head-to-head race, polls show any unnamed “generic Republican” with a growing lead over the “The One.”

In July, Obama political adviser David Plouffe quipped that in 2012, “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate, they’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation?’ ” Unfortunately for the White House, American families feel increasingly pessimistic about the country and their own futures. Those like Mr. Plouffe who would like to see Mr. Obama re-create Harry Truman’s magic should remember that in November 1948, the economy was growing at 4.4 percent and the unemployment rate was 3.8 percent. It will take more than another big telepromptered speech for “President Zero” to conjure up numbers like that.

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