Barack Obama’s presidency, and the Democrats’ chances of holding the White House in 2016, are fading faster than Hillary Clinton’s emails.
The long-suffering, underperforming Obama economy still shows signs of weakness. The majority of his party in Congress is deserting him in droves over his trade deal and threatening to filibuster it. Obamacare, facing financial troubles in its state marketplaces, may be shot down soon by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported last week that the economy added 223,000 jobs in April, but there is less here than meets the eye.
The administration has a disturbing habit of coming out with job numbers that capture the headlines, only to have that number sharply revised downward later and ignored by the news media.
We learned last Friday that employers added 85,000 jobs in March, significantly less than the original 126,000 estimate by BLS.
Job gains in February and March combined were nearly 40,000 lower than what the BLS originally reported at the time.
April’s numbers hardly merited the praise that poured from the administration’s apologists. They were “well below the 260,000 averaged during 2014 — pitching cold water on forecasts of stronger economic growth this spring and complicating the Federal Reserve’s plans to raise interest rates,” said University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici.
Over the past three months, job gains have averaged a mediocre 191,000 per month.
Yes, the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent, but that was “largely because so many prime working-age adults are still not employed or looking for work,” Mr. Morici says. About 7 million of them are not counted among the unemployed.
The fact of the matter, unreported by the nightly network news, is that the Obama economy has been slowing down for some time now.
Economic growth as measured by the gross domestic product was a dismal 2.2 percent in the last three months of 2014 — well below the original estimate of 2.6 percent.
But the GDP’s free fall has gotten worse, a lot worse. The economy barely grew by 0.2 percent in the first three months of this year. And even that’s being charitable.
As a result of a larger than expected trade deficit, “first-quarter growth will likely be revised down to -0.2,” Mr. Morici predicts. Economists are already lowering their growth forecasts for the rest of this year.
If the U.S. economy continues to slide as it heads into the 2016 election year, the Democrats — and Hillary — can kiss their dreams of a third term goodbye.
Meanwhile, President Obama and his party are in the midst of a civil war over his trans-Pacific trade deal and the battle to enact fast-track trade authority, under which trade deals are voted up or down, with no amendments.
Democrats, and their powerful allies in organized labor, are fighting the deal tooth and nail. Senate Democrats successfully filibustered on Tuesday to block a vote, and Mr. Obama has begun attacking them in unusually stinging terms: dismissing his Democratic foes as know-nothings, illogical and downright stupid.
“Their arguments are based on fears, or they’re fighting NAFTA, the trade deal that was passed 25 years ago — or 20 years ago,” Mr. Obama said in an interview with Matt Bai of Yahoo News over the weekend.
“I understand the emotions behind it, but when you break down the logic of their arguments, I’ve got to say that there’s not much there there,” he said.
The political offensive being leveled by the trade deal’s fiercest critics, from Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, “doesn’t make any sense.” Others were making claims about it that were “made up” or “not smart.”
As for Ms. Warren, now the party’s widely acknowledged liberal leader, Mr. Obama dismissed her as nothing more than “a politician like everybody else” whose arguments “don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”
The president certainly didn’t mince words or pull his punches. But beating up on your own party when you are its leader is a political no-no. It did not advance the trade deal. It won no new converts. It further divided his party.
President Clinton, who maneuvered NAFTA through a skeptical, Democratic-controlled Congress, did it through skillful lobbying, legislative tradeoffs, backroom deals and a lot of back-slapping.
Mr. Obama is utterly incapable of doing any of these things. His interview with Yahoo News revealed him as arrogant, insulting, conceited, combative and insecure.
“If Obama loses on trade, blame should go to the twin pillars of detachment that have underpinned his presidency: insularity and secrecy,” writes The Washington Post’s super-liberal columnist Dana Milbank, one of the president’s earliest cheerleaders.
Instead of declassifying the trade pact’s text, as critics demand, he has gone on the attack. “Obama prefers to inform fellow Democrats that he’s the smartest guy in the room,” Mr. Milbank says.
The late, great campaign pugilist Lee Atwater embraced a political war strategy that he called the Napoleonic Rule: “Never interfere with the enemy when it is in the process of defeating itself.”
That’s what is happening to the Democrats. They have lost control of Congress and a majority of the country. And now they are fighting among themselves and against their own president.
Meantime, the economy is weaker. Mr. Obama can’t break out of the 40-some percent approval zone. And four in 10 Democrats say “honest” either barely applies to Hillary Clinton or doesn’t apply at all, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.
A little more than 17 months from now the voters will get to have the last word about all this. It can’t come soon enough.
• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.