It’s not that the economy is so bad, it’s that you’re slacking; at least that’s what the president of the United States thinks. In an interview on WESH of Orlando, Florida, President Obama said, “The way I think about it is, you know, this is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and, you know, we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.”

If the president’s comments sound a whole lot like President Carter’s “malaise” speech, it should. Rather than accepting that his management of the economy has been less than stellar, Mr. Obama is passing the buck. Where Carter told the American people that we only thought things were bad, Obama is pointing at us for being slackers. For 3 years we’ve heard various sources in the administration, including the president and vice president, blame President Bush for the poor economy, the current tactic seems to be steer the blame away from the past administration, at least partially, and blame lazy Americans; this ploy should probably work about as well as blaming Bush.

Not to change course totally, Vice President Biden told said that while the state of the economy might be the fault of the previous Republican administration, the public is still understandably angry at the party in power for the dismal state of the economy. Biden went on to say that blaming Bush isn’t helping and is “not relevant” right now, so cut it out. Biden made it clear that the administration was counting on soon having a target in a Republican nominee. The Obama ticket is counting on having a stark contrast with a Republican candidate that will make them look like the lesser of 2 evils.

Biden’s implied tactic assumes that given a one-on-one comparison Americans will know which party to blame, however if this is the best the administration has to offer it’ll be a very long campaign season for the president. A strategy of hoping voters will somehow ignore 2 failed stimulus and an attempt to pass a third in favor of deciding a change at the top isn’t in order seems little better than pipe-dream. The likelihood that the voting public will believe that things could be worse, after the worst economic performance in more than 70 years, is a sign the Obama administration is grasping at straws. Adding in President Obama’s new “blame the public,” approach sends the message to his supporters that things do not look promising for 2012. 

Obama interview with NBC affiliate WESH

 The combined comments of the president and vice president in Florida, a crucial state for any hopes of re-election, paint a dismal picture of the president’s re-election prospects. In the interview Obama previewed the “it could have been worse” pitch for 2012,” an almost certain act of total desperation. Somewhere Jimmy Carter is tugging at his hair and asking, “Didn’t you learn anything from my re-election failure?”

One has to ask which brilliant Obama campaign strategist thought that Americans would accept the blame for the president’s stewardship of the economy was a good idea. Could it be that the president was going rogue, to use a frequent narrative of one of his last campaign opponents and chose to allow it to slip out that he blames the public’s lack of confidence for the current economic state? Since there have been no attempts to walk back the president’s words, one must assume that his words were anticipated by his re-election campaign.

A great country in decline is a poor message to send to give confidence to the voters. The message, “it’s not me, it’s your fault,” will deliver further ammunition to his opponents. While President Kennedy could say, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” seems distinctly out-of-place when this president has had free reign to implement his economic vision. Kennedy was calling the American people to arms, where Obama is blame-shifting. Perhaps Obama believes that telling the public that current economic straits are the byproduct of years of American decay rather than poor management on his part will cause the public to decide there was little he could do about the situation; but such a vision demonstrates Mr. Obama’s blindness when it comes to American exceptionalism. It also begs the question: where was this rhetoric in the 2008 election? If Mr. Obama felt that his goal was to turn America from a country headed towards mediocrity to a new course of greatness, where was this vision when he was touting, “Yes we can?”

At a time when the president needs to be arguing that his policies, while moving slowly, are actually helping to turn the economy around, a hard sell to say the least, he’s chosen a path that says, “I failed, but you failed more.” Not a very favorable argument for re-election.

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