So now Obama ‘pivots to jobs’ or whatever
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Not that you would want to think this way yourself, but if you want to be familiar with the mind of the quintessential Washingtonian, you can’t do much better than the National Journal’s Ron Fournier. With many years under his belt with the Associated Press, the Inside the Beltway mindset is hardwired into Fournier’s brain. So why would you want to read a guy like this? Because sometimes this crowd forgets that they have family secrets, and if you read their words carefully enough you catch them giving away inside knowledge about why our so-called leaders really do the things they do.
So it is that Fournier, in a preview of tomorrow night’s State of the Union, casually acknowledges that Obama’s choice of emphasis has basically nothing to do with leadership or a sober analysis of the nation’s priorities - and everything to do political positioning:
White House officials tell me they feel stung by coverage of the inaugural address. Reporters highlighted the president’s left-leaning stances on immigration, gun control, climate change and gay and women’s rights. Obama’s aides argue that he devoted more inaugural address language to the economy, jobs and the deficit than all other issues combined.
Still, the perception remains that Obama lost focus on the economy—the top issue in the minds of most voters.
So look for an address Tuesday tilted heavily toward policies pledging action on joblessness, growing the economy and expanding the middle class, White House officials said Friday. The other issues will be discussed, aides said, but there will be no mistaking that Obama’s paramount concern is the economy. The Washington Post and The New York Times reported Sunday that Obama would propose ways to make college more affordable and urge Congress to spend federal money on research and roads. The Post said Obama will argue that such steps are needed “to prepare Americans for a world where a warming climate, a nomadic labor force and new technology are shutting doors and opening new ones across the national economy.”
Though Obama’s team would dismiss its significance, Democratic allies took notice of Quinnipiac University’s new poll that showed Obama’s approval rating dropping since his election, from a 53 percent approval rating in December to 46 percent.
One senior Democratic consultant with ties to both the White House and Capitol Hill said he’s not surprised by the slip in polls for two reasons. First, independent voters might want Obama talking more about their jobs and the economy. Second, liberal Democrats are unhappy with reports about Obama’s aggressive drone warfare.
“He needs to get back to jobs, jobs and middle-class jobs,” the Democrat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution from the White House.
I’m struck by two things about this piece. The less remarkable point is that Obama’s using the SOTU for little more than an opportunity to manipulate public opinion and improve his standing in the polls. Far from the original intent of a State of the Union address, which was for the president to give an informational, fact-based report to Congress on how the nation is really doing, the whole thing has morphed into a big show that the president seeks to use to his own advantage.
The somewhat more remarkable point is how numb to all this the mainstream media have become. The tone of the piece is such that Fournier simply assumes everyone reading it expect nothing else. Of course it’s all just a political show. Of course Obama is crafting his address to the nation on the basis of what he didn’t like about his recent press coverage. What else would he do?
When the media tell us nonchalantly that the president has decided to “pivot to jobs,” they are unwittingly acknowledging that just about everything the president says represents little more than cynical positioning. Last week it was gun control and whatever else because that suited his purposes. Now he has to “pivot to jobs” because if he doesn’t, he’ll look this way or that way. They don’t even think it’s news anymore how cynical and disingenuous the whole thing is. They just offer him praise or criticism based on how skillfully he executes the con.
When he was at the AP, Fournier came up with this thing called “accountability journalism,” which meant that the AP would abandon its longstanding practice of just-the-fact reporting and would now presume to tell the public when our leaders were being dishonest, incompetent or malevolent in the performance of their jobs. Of course, that was when George W. Bush was president. That was different.
Today, Fournier does little more than explain the politics of everything without bothering to note that governing for the sake of politics is not in the best interests of the nation - since that is apparently a notion so quaint and outdated that you’d practically be advertising yourself as an unsophisticated clod if you acknowledged you still care about it.