Win the Nows

"Because the Future is Just a Whole String of Nows!"

Obama That's a quote from a very wise man I learned long ago. Words to live by. I hope you put these two statements together and realized I'm going to criticize President Obama and the vapid slogan "Win the Future." Actually, vapid isn't harsh enough. Pernicious, maybe? No, that implies that the administration realizes their strategy is harmful. I'm going to settle on ignorant. It is especially appropriate because it cuts to the bone the President's "I'm the smartest guy in the room" mentality. So there.

Since I'd already given up on Obama, it wasn't hard to see that "Win the Future" was an ignorant strategy.1 I thought about using the quote above for a critical post right away, but I'm glad I waited for an article that perfectly illustrates the political incompetence of the administration: White House Debates Fight On Economy.

Before I begin the take-down, I'd like to make clear that I think Obama has been crazy as a fox with respect to his past "caving" to the Republicans on issue after issue. I think Obama has gotten exactly what he wanted, while still maintaining some respect of moderate Democrats who think he gave it the old college try and came up short. However, when it comes to a re-election strategy, you don't want to play 11-dimensional chess with issues. The basic point is if a majority of voters feel like they're better off than four years ago, the incumbent will win. If not, it's sayonara.

The lede:
As the economy worsens, President Obama and his senior aides are considering whether to adopt a more combative approach on economic issues, seeking to highlight substantive differences with Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail rather than continuing to pursue elusive compromises, advisers to the president say.

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress, even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers, according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.2

Even if the ideas cannot pass Congress, they say, the president would gain a campaign issue by pushing for them.
I can't imagine a more stark statement of cluelessness. The range of ideas to stimulate the economy - which obviously needs it - is from free trade agreements to tax cuts for business. These ideas are abstract and long-term, thus they have no resonance to people hurting right now. Worse, they are pointless, because even if they succeed, "they may not have much economic impact" or they would create a miniscule issue to campaign on. The best way to get re-elected is to actually improve the situation, not to chalk up a meaningless point or campaign issue.

More idiocy:
The issue is being framed by the 2012 election. Administration officials, frustrated by the intransigence of House Republicans, have increasingly concluded that the best thing Mr. Obama can do for the economy may be winning a second term, with a mandate to advance his ideas on deficit reduction, entitlement changes, housing policy and other issues.

Mr. Obama plans to spend time this weekend considering his options, advisers said. The White House expects to unveil new job-creation proposals in early September.
How convenient that Obama thinks the best thing for the economy is his re-election. As for the mandate, he had one in 2009 and pissed that down his leg, why will 2013 be any different? (Besides the House and perhaps the Senate being in GOP hands) Note "his ideas": deficit reduction, entitlement changes, and housing policy. For Washington, deficit reduction means spending cuts and entitlement changes means spending cuts. Yet not even the average Republican voter wants only spending cuts to fix the deficit and virtually no-one wants Medicare and Social Security cuts. As for housing policy, I wasn't aware Obama had one. If it will take another month to unveil new job-creation proposals, can we expect a housing policy by year's end? I don't have much hope for that.

Boy, I could riff on each and every paragraph in this article, so I have pick my battles. This one easily makes the cut:
So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach — better to do something than nothing — that has defined this administration. Mr. Obama and his aides are skeptical that voters will reward bold proposals if those ideas do not pass Congress. It is their judgment that moderate voters want tangible results rather than speeches.
This is Bizarro world. The nonconfrontational approach says nothing (accepting what the other side offers) is better than something (fighting for and in every scrap). And voters think Obama has so far given no tangible results - remember, health care doesn't come around until 2014 - only speeches. What are they smoking in the White House?

Again, an embarrassment of richness forces me to skip to this:
Mr. Plouffe and Mr. Daley share the view that a focus on deficit reduction is an economic and political imperative, according to people who have spoken with them. Voters believe that paying down the debt will help the economy, and the White House agrees, although it wants to avoid cutting too much spending while the economy remains weak.
Well, the voters are wrong, and it is leadership to appraise them of that fact and show what really will help the economy: stimulus. Then the White House contradicts itself by saying cutting spending is a bad idea right now. I mean, if cutting spending is a bad idea, isn't increasing spending a good one? And then we reach self-parody:
The administration may also merge the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and some economic divisions at the State Department into a new agency, administration officials said. Possible names include the Department of Jobs or the Department of Competitiveness.
Ridiculous. Finally, all lamestream journalism must include some neutral and unchallenged quote from the other side of the story. Well, in this case, the "other side" is the Center for American Progress, the think tank of the Democratic Party. I wonder what they think of Obama's strategy?
“I’m as frustrated as everybody else on the planet both with where we are and with the response,” said Sarah Rosen Wartell of the Center for American Progress. “But I was reflecting on how difficult a hand they were dealt and how limited the options are.”

“If the other side has demonstrated an unwillingness to be a party to a compromise,” she added, “then you’ve got to lay out your vision as clearly as possible and make your case for it to the public.”
While saying that in support of the White House, it nevertheless contains a kernel of truth. It's just too bad that "Win the Future" is not as clear as possible, but is in fact as ignorant as possible.

1 As opposed to during the campaign, when I bought "Hope 'n Change" hook, line and sinker. Click "Read More" below to see the video of the end of Obama's speech in St. Paul in 2008 after he had wrapped up the Democratic nomination for President. I was there and left just short of euphoric. What a sucker I was!

2 I gotta give these unnamed Democrats some props. That's exactly what would be a great policy for the country and a great strategy for the next election. Too bad Obama doesn't want to anything to do with it.

I never though I'd do this, but I'll link to an Andrew Breitbart site that has the full text of the speech.