Any doubts about the President's campaign were resolved today by his speech in Cleveland. It was advertised as a major address on the economy and, less explicitly, as a reboot for the campaign after a really bad no good stretch. Anyone who has been paying attention over the last three years had good reason to be skeptical. The skepticism was warranted.
You would expect conservatives to be unreceptive and you would not have been disappointed. Charles Krauthammer called it a rehash on Fox. John Hinderaker at Powerline offers a devastating analysis of the speech.
If the speech was to do any good at all, campaign wise, it should surely have impressed sympathetic figures in the press. It doesn't look like it did. Hunter Walker, who blogs for the New York Observer at Politicker, scoops up some Tweets from MSNBC and ABC. Here is one from Devin Dwyer at ABC:
Obama speech in Ohio felt more lecture or courtroom arg than rally. He streamlined pitch, imbued urgency, said voters will break stalemate.
Across the board, commenters complained about the length of the speech. Jonathan Alter said on air that it was one of the worst speeches he had heard Obama make. Here's his Tweet:
Just cheerleading BO doesn't help him. He needs a sharper, more cogent message with some memorable lines. I ain't walking my criticism back.
For a more analytical approach from someone who had high hopes for President Obama's speech on the economy, here is Dana Milbank at the WaPo.
I had high hopes for President Obama's speech on the economy. But instead of going to Ohio on Thursday with a compelling plan for the future, the president gave Americans a falsehood wrapped in a fallacy.
The falsehood is that he has been serious about cutting government spending. The fallacy is that this election will be some sort of referendum that will break the logjam in Washington.
A "falsehood wrapped in a fallacy" is not the sort of thing that a sympathizer hopes for in a President's speech. As for the fallacy, here is the sweet spot in Milbank's report:
No scenario shows either party with a chance of amassing a solid governing majority of the sort Obama had when he took office. The way to break the stalemate is through compromise, not conquest.
What Milbank doesn't elaborate on, but I will, is the fact that the President had a very unusual opportunity to fix the nation's fiscal problems in this first two years in office. He was in the White House and his party controlled both houses of Congress with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Mr. Obama and his supporters like to blame the Republican opposition for his many failures, but how much did he accomplish when the Republicans were powerless? They spent all their time and advantages on a healthcare plan that a vast majority of the public now despises. What they didn't do was to address the more serious fiscal and economic problems.
I haven't checked to see if it's even mathematically possible for the Republicans to win a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. If such a thing could happen, would the Republicans do better than the Democrats did? I have my doubts. What we do know for certainty is that Democratic control of the Federal Government is not the solution to our problems.
As for the falsehood:
Despite his claim that "both parties have laid out their policies on the table," Obama has made no serious proposal to fix the runaway entitlement programs that threaten to swamp the government's finances…
Nothing in Obama's speech came close to a proposal to fix the debt problem; he dealt with that only at the end of the speech — largely by complaining about Republicans' refusal to consider higher taxes on the wealthy.
Obama alleged, correctly, that Republicans' refusal to countenance tax increases scuttled the Bowles-Simpson plan and the Senate's Gang of Six plan. He argued, also correctly, that Republicans' refusal to budge on taxes is "the biggest source of gridlock in Washington today." He's on solid ground, too, in saying Republicans would end Medicare as we know it.
But none of that is going to help Obama, because he hasn't come up with a viable alternative.
I think it is false to blame Republicans for the failure of Bowles-Simpson. Obama let the plan die without ever seriously defending it or trying to build a consensus for it in Congress. I think it is true that the Republican opposition to tax increases will sooner or later have to relax if the problem is going to be solved. If it is true that the Republicans would end Medicare as we know it, it is equally true that the Democrats have no plan to save it. Milbank agrees with Krauthammer that the speech was a "rehash".
The President's speech looks to be another failure at a moment when a success was desperately needed. Its length alone was an unforced error. As for substance, what could he have done differently? His record is dreadful and he has no plans for the future. What orator could have risen to that challenge?