The electorate’s disillusion with President Obama has something to do with the state of the economy, but that’s not a great excuse for his lousy job approval ratings. Obama’s policies themselves have retarded economic growth. And the disillusion felt by the electorate also relates to Obama’s continuing revelation of himself as a man of the left. The tiger hasn’t changed his stripes; they have just become more visible to those who were inclined to believe the post-partisan rhetoric of the Obama campaign. The voters’ will to believe overcame the evidence of Obama’s record and associations.
The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman reports on Obama’s effort to reconnect with voters in advance of the impending elections. Weisman followed Obama to a backyard townhall meeting in Des Moines at the home of Jeff and Sandy Clubb. A somewhat more detailed account from the local Iowa press is here. The White House has posted the full text of the backyard event here.
The prospect of an electoral hanging in a fortnight or two has concentrated Obama’s mind wonderfully. Obama gave prepared remarks on the depredations of the Bush era and took questions from the group in attendance. Weisman found this in the Clubb backyard:
Mary Stier–attending the president’s second of three small “town hall” meetings on a four-state swing this week–told the president of her 24-year-old son, who “campaigned fiercely” for Mr. Obama in 2008, graduated from Simpson College a year and a half ago and still is “struggling to find a job.”
“They are losing their hope,” she said in the backyard of Jeff Clubb, a social studies and religion teacher at a Des Moines Catholic school, and Sandy Clubb, the athletic director of Drake University.
The question, and the president’s long answer about the depths of the Great Recession, mirrored the exchange Mr. Obama had last week with Velma Hart, a supporter who told him she was “exhausted” from defending him. Coming the morning after an ebullient political rally in Madison, Wis., it underscored the difficulty Democrats are having mobilizing the voters that propelled them to victory in 2008.
Something about the “change” wrought by Obama has dimmed the “hope” he peddled during the campaign:
One woman questioned whether the Obama health-care plan would send the U.S. health-care system into a British-style system of rationing and delays. A man asked when the president would end costly wars abroad. Criticized over illegal immigrants getting health care, the president said, “It is very important that we have compassion as part of our national character.”
Obama argued that Obamacare does not extend coverage to illegal immigrants and that medical care to illegal immigrants isn’t such a big deal: “It turns out actually illegal immigrants probably under-utilize the health care system. The only time they go to the health care system is if they have an emergency, because for the most part they’re worried about getting caught.” No problem!
Weisman turns to Obama’s advocacy of the impending income tax increase on small business owners and individuals with income over $250,000. One voter took issue with Obama on the wisdom of Obama’s desire to save the impending tax increase on them:
In the Wednesday session, a small businessman pressed the president to extend tax cuts for households and small businesses that earn more than $250,000.
“As the government gets more and more involved in business and more involved in taxes to pay for an awful lot of programs…you’re sort of strangling the engine that does create the jobs,” he said.
Weisman describes Obama as “on the defensive,” saying that Americans don’t want tax increases totaling $700 billion but also complain that the country’s budget deficit is too high. Voters “say, ‘cut government spending.’” Obama responded to those querulous voters:
“Well most spending is for veterans, for education, for defense. Foreign aid is 1% of our budget. They say, ‘Why don’t you eliminate earmarks, all those pork projects that Congress wants to spend.’ Even if I could end all those earmarks, that’s 1% of budget. Finding $700 billion is not easy.”
That $700 billion number rings a bell. Isn’t that just about the amount that Obama and his Democratic allies poured down the rathole of their stimulus plan? They didn’t have any trouble at all “finding” $700 billion last year. The descent from from Hope and Change is steep. Listen up:
The final question was from a priest asking on behalf of an unemployed parishioner what the president’s policies would do for him in the coming months. Mr. Obama said clean-energy initiatives hold some promise. “Some of the manufacturing jobs that have been lost just won’t come back,” Mr. Obama said.
Weisman omits Obama’s extended discussion of where the new manufacturing jobs would come from, but it’s worth a look. Here is a chunk of what Obama said:
The clean energy sector I think is going to be a huge growth sector. And what we did during the Recovery Act was we invested in companies, including companies here in Iowa. I was out at a wind farm — where was that? Out in Fort Madison, Siemens — where you go here and what was just a shut-down factory, they’ve reopened. They’re building the blades for these massive windmills. And they had just hired several hundred people and were looking at hiring several hundred more because they are seeing some certainty in the renewable energy industry.
And so they had actually hired a lot of folks who were coming off traditional manufacturing industries, applying their new skills to these new jobs.
The same is happening in advanced battery manufacturing. I don’t know how many people here have a hybrid car — you’ve got a couple of folks. It turns out that we weren’t making the batteries that are going into these hybrid and electric cars; they were all being made elsewhere. We had about 2 percent of the market.
In this remake of The Graduate, Obama has one word to say to the young Ben Braddocks of today, but it’s not “plastics.” It’s “windmills.” Or it’s “batteries.” “There’s a great future in windmills.” It was a great laugh line in 1967 and it’s not bad now.
It contrasts rather markedly from the deliverance Obama promised only two years ago in St. Paul when he touted his arrival as “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal,…the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth.”
November 2 can’t come soon enough.