Someone needs to let President Barack Obama in on a very big secret: The American people are not listening to him anymore.
Last week’s address to a joint session of Congress, as the Washington Examiner reported, “received the lowest ratings he’s [ever] received for any address to a joint session of Congress of his presidency.”
That address included no new ideas or bipartisan consensus (except for trade deals, which have languished because of unnecessary presidential intransigence) and felt like a campaign speech that was not worthy of national air time and the setting of the historic House chamber.
The public is tuning Obama out for one very specific reason: Although they like him personally, they do not like him professionally.
Obama has proved that he was not ready to be president of the United States, and his economic agenda has simply failed by anyone’s standard.
How does he turn it around?
Giving another teleprompter speech won’t do it.
President Bill Clinton co-opted the Republican agenda in 1995 and triangulated between the parties to rise above politics.
Obama needs a Sister Souljah moment. He needs to surprise the silent majority of Americans who have stopped paying attention to him by doing what all good leaders do: take responsibility.
President Harry S. Truman once famously had a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” Obama has no such sign.
Americans want honesty and accountability in their presidents. Over time, without such personal characteristics on regular display, the public begins to tune out when a president speaks.
Mort Zuckerman recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “The President appears to consider himself immune from error and asserts the fault always lies elsewhere.”
After more than 960 days since Obama’s economic stimulus became law, it is appropriate to review the rhetoric and promises of the Obama administration and the economic reality.
First, according to research by the Republican National Committee, Obama and his Democratic allies promised the creation of more than 15 million jobs through his various policies:
— 3.5 million jobs “saved or created” from the stimulus (more than 90 percent “in the private sector”).
— 5 million jobs from the “Green Energy Economy.”
— 4 million jobs promised by Obama’s top legislative enforcer, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), by passing the health care reform bill, with “almost 400,000 immediately.”
— 2 million jobs from infrastructure spending.
— 600,000 jobs in 2011 by extending unemployment benefits through the end of 2011.
According to ADP National Employment Report statistics, at the end of Obama’s first month in office, February 2009, 110,299,000 Americans were employed (non-farm private payrolls, seasonally adjusted). Fully 30 months later, a net of 1.45 million fewer Americans are employed, according to the same statistics.
Just one year ago, Obama said, “I want all Americans to remind themselves there are better days ahead.”
But there have not been better days. Has he taken any responsibility whatsoever? No.
The August national employment report found that, as CNBC reported, for the first time since World War II, the economy had a net of zero jobs created for a month. Economic analysts had predicted a net increase of 75,000 jobs.
Did Obama speak to America to admit that this report was disappointing and unacceptable and that he was taking responsibility for 9.1 percent unemployment and 24 million Americans out of work, underemployed or who have stopped looking for work altogether? No.
As Politico reported on the day the jobs report was issued, “It’s rare that President Obama doesn’t make some sort of statement on the one day each month that the jobs report comes out, but that’s what happened today.”
Better days are not coming.
But you don’t have to take my word for it — the White House made continued high unemployment its official prediction for the next 16 months. The White House Office of Management and Budget recently predicted that national unemployment will remain at 9 percent through 2012 and be at 8.5 percent in 2013 and 7.8 percent in 2014. No incumbent president has won re-election with unemployment above 7.2 percent since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The White House also decreased the predicted national gross domestic product growth for 2011 to 1.7 percent, a full point lower than its prediction earlier this year. The U.S. economy grew by a paltry 0.7 percent in the first six months of the year, which the Associated Press reported was the slowest rate of growth since the recession ended two years ago.
As Kevin Bacon’s character in the film “A Few Good Men” concluded in his opening argument, “These are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.”
Given the dramatic gulf between the administration’s lofty rhetoric and empty promises, and the persistently high unemployment expected through the end of Obama’s first term, many Americans may wonder whether anyone will take responsibility.
A recent national survey by CNN and ORC International found that 65 percent of respondents disapproved of Obama’s handling of the economy.
But Obama has a seemingly infinite string of excuses for the economic difficulty, offering at least 11 reasons for why the economic recovery has been so slow.
In spite of his “jobs speech,” the president is facing a point of no return on the economy. The blame game has not worked, and a majority of Americans believe his policies have failed.
Whether he has the humility, leadership, courage and determination to admit mistakes, accept responsibility and correct his course will likely determine whether he will be able to achieve a second term in office.
Matt Mackowiak is a Washington- and Austin, Texas-based Republican consultant and president of Potomac Strategy Group LLC.