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PRUDEN: Once more, Stupid: It’s the economy
Question of the Day
We may be a nation of saps, if the pollsters are correct in their current assessment of the presidential race, but we're a nation of good-hearted saps. We always want to do the right thing. We like that lovable ol' lug in the White House, blundering and incompetent though he is. We want to think highly of ourselves, and how better to do it than by voting for Barack Obama?
The economy is in the Dumpster, the Middle East is ablaze with hatred for America, and the president keeps busy making it worse. He's about to preside over the expansion of nuclear weapons into the hands of Islamic madmen. The bill of particulars is a long one and bears repeating for the big audience. The president tries to console us with reassurance from Alfred E. Neuman: "What? Me worry?"
Mitt Romney, nobody's idea of FDR, Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan, gets his last, best chance Wednesday night to abandon the game plan of feckless establishment Republicans who are happiest when they join Democrats in trashing imperfect Republican candidates. This time their tattered slogan, "We're not as bad as you think," isn't working.
Mr. Romney has a presidential profile that looks as if it belongs on Mount Rushmore, but he has to offer more than that, even to saps. We're told that voters want him to be someone they could have a beer with, as absurd as that would have sounded to earlier American grown-ups.
Being "not Barack Obama" is a powerful qualification, and maybe the most important, but not this year. He can't be a lovable ol' lug — we've already got one of those — so he might as well run like a Democrat, and go after his opponent with mail and chain. Hammer and tongs won't do it.
Respectfully, of course. Remember to say a few nice things about the president, such as "we all think he's a man with a good heart." But remember to add that "it's not where his heart is, but where his head is." (Keep the body parts straight.) Above all, keep the focus on the economy. That's the one subject above all that the president and the Democrats are desperate not to talk about. Be prepared for the media critics to call you a racist, a bigot, a bounder, a cad and an ignorant jasper. Be prepared as well to hear some imaginative stretchers (be careful not to call them "lies").
When Bob Schieffer of CBS News reminded Bill Clinton the other day that unemployment is higher than when the president took office, the economy is still in the dump and a lot of people say that's reason enough to change presidents, Bubba replied that he didn't know "a single serious economist" who thought four years was long enough to "heal" the land. If Mr. Obama pulls that on you, remind him that Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and a clutch of his own economists — as well as himself — told us that, "serious" or not, Mr. Obama could and would heal what ails us.
Concede that he inherited a bad economy, but you could remind him (and the audience) how he made it worse. We're not only not completely out of the Great Recession, but most economists think another one is on the way. The average growth of the gross domestic product in the first 12 quarters of recoveries since World War II has been 15 percent, including an annual rate of nearly 19 percent in the Reagan recovery. But the Obama recovery only musters a weak 7 percent rate.
Government spending, he promised when he moved into the White House, would unleash a robust recovery, leading to "an economy built to last." White House economists promised that the stimulus would by now bring the unemployment rate down to 5.6 percent. The rate today is actually 8.1 percent. He promised to have cut the deficit in half by now; instead, it's more than $1 trillion (that's with a 't') a year and counting, twice what it was when he took office.
The only natural advantage Mr. Obama takes into these debates is his voice. Since almost nobody has ever heard oratory or even great preachers, they're susceptible to Mr. Obama's black-pulpit eloquence.
It's not that the president is a man of bad faith. He no doubt believes some of the stuff he shovels into our ears. It's that he believes in a lot of things that just ain't true. Mitt Romney can't let him get away with it.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Editor Emeritus — American journalist legend and Vietnam War author James Wesley Pruden, Jr. is Editor Emeritus of The Washington Times. Pruden’s first job in the newspaper business dates back to 1951 as a copyboy at the now defunct Arkansas Gazette where he later became a sportswriter and an assistant state editor. In 1982, he joined The Washington Times, four ...
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