Obama’s Debate Mission

barack and bill

White House photo: Pete Souza

Let’s give Mitt Romney credit. He came to the first debate ready, prepared and fighting trim. He won the debate. Decisively. Before the debate, President Obama had achieved a significant advantage. After the debate, the gap had closed. The fondest wish of most media has come true. We have a horse race that will be contested to the finish line.

Let’s give Obama credit, though: the jobs report last week included significant and politically important good news. The jobless rate fell to 7.8 percent at a time when more workers, not fewer, joined the workforce. The housing industry, essential for the next morning in America to commence, is clearly on the mend. Consumer confidence is strong. The stock market has soared since the president took office. The value of 401(k) plans, which are vital to the security of many millions of Americans, has skyrocketed along with markets.

Of course the economy still faces challenges, but major companies are increasing hiring for the holiday season above the levels of last year. Macy’s, Target, Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us join a long list of companies whose confidence has inspired them to substantial holiday hiring. They are doing their part for America. The economy is coming back.

The mission for the president and Democrats, as the debates continue and the closing days of the campaign approach, is to offer the voters a narrative that is true, compelling and appealing about the successes of the president in his first term and the achievements the president offers for a second term.

For the president and Democrats, the mission is to understand and build on the reasons for the very real and significant bounce that lifted them after the Democratic convention.

The brilliant and historically important speech of former President Clinton made a powerful and credible case for the successes that Obama has achieved in first avoiding a new global depression after the disaster he inherited from his Republican predecessor, and initiating the economic recovery that has begun to gather steam with strong consumer confidence, improved housing markets, rising 401(k) plans, strengthened financial markets and the latest decline in joblessness.

Clinton has unparalleled credibility as the only living former president who is fondly remembered for achieving outstanding economic prosperity and success, and unparalleled skills in communicating a powerful and optimistic narrative about the successes Obama has achieved, the continued success he will achieve if reelected and the danger of reliving the disasters of the Bush years if the powers of the presidency are returned to the Republicans who caused the great financial crash.

The Democratic convention also lifted the president and Democrats because of the passionate, humane and uplifting speech by first lady Michelle Obama, and the potent and pointed speech by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), which dramatized how the president has improved American security and drew a contrast with the dangers to our security of the bellicose brand of neoconservative military policies championed by Romney.

The coming debate will have a town-hall meeting format that creates a different communications vehicle than other debate formats. A town-hall meeting debate offers the president a golden moment to offer his narrative about the Bush years, the Obama first term and the future of a second Obama term that will focus on his vision and agenda — and then, and only then, offer the contrast with Romney.

The president could discuss at some length why Clinton was successful and how the economy has indeed improved since he succeeded President George W. Bush. He could discuss how Clinton can help work with Republicans in Congress, who praise him so often it will be hard for them to resist, in taming the deficit and creating more jobs.

Obama can talk about the shared sacrifice and shared prosperity that is the Democratic tradition. He can and should contrast this, in a conversational tone, with the insulting Romney comments about the 47 percent, which Romney repeated and doubled-down on for many days, and which represent the policies that Romney and Republicans stand for.

Obama can discuss the role of commander in chief, and the challenges of a world that can’t be solved by the bellicose speeches of those who would start wars recklessly.

Obama should talk about what he has learned in the presidency, the mistakes he has made and the lessons he learned from those mistakes, and the achievements he has had, and the lessons he has learned from those successes.

I would like to see the president dramatically escalate his positive television ads about his own vision, achievements and agenda. He should not be shy about detailing in the debates the economic successes I mention in this column, the optimism he believes in and the pathway to more prosperity that he, Vice President Biden, Clinton and Democrats in Congress will champion in a second term.

Obama does recognize the pain that afflicts too many Americans, but he should also be the champion of an agenda of optimism, aspiration and achievement that will be the hallmark of a second Obama term.

Brent BudowskyThe president should make clear that our exceptionalism is not how wealthy the few become, but how much prosperity is created and shared by the many, and the fairness and justice and decency we stand for.

Obama should state that Republicans bear major responsibility for the problems he inherited, and seem to politically relish the pain that they did so much to create, but even more important, the president has a good narrative to offer, and a good story to tell, and he should tell it with confidence, optimism and vigor.

Brent Budowsky
The Hill

Posted: Monday, 9 October 2012


  1. inthemiddle says

    Not affiliated with a party

    The financial crisis was significantly aided by the repeal of Glass-Steagall act, which occurred during President Clinton’s administration. The house oversight committee, lead by Barney Frank, did nothing but encourage irresponsible lending with Federally backed Fannie/Freddie loans. During Bush’s term, regulations were further relaxed, and reckless lending practices further encouraged under his “culture of home ownership”, with the same Dem’s in the same oversight seats. Neither political party served up an economic crisis. They both are patently responsible for it. Did Bush’s administration have culpability. Absolutely. Did Clinton’s. Absolutely. There is no question that Obama inherited a financial crisis. But from whom he inherited it is very questionable. Until the right and left are capable of taking responsibility for their respective role playing and take meaningful legislative action, we’re headed for another one.

    Inflation in building materials prices is already here (lumber, steel, concrete up 12-35% year over year). Commodities prices for durable goods and building materials are seeing double digit increases year over year. The country faces a moral dilema on taxation/spending. I submit that the answer is in the middle. Increase taxes on the wealthiest among us, further incent US business to return to our shores. Simplify the tax code and eliminate loop holes. And finally, CUT SPENDING. Further polarization of the American people to the left and right is killing this country, and reducing our political discourse to a soundbite.

    Enough with the blame game. Let’s elect some politicians who can articulate a plan, rather than spending their time rewriting history and deflecting blame from their own parties responsibility for the crisis we’re still digging out of.

  2. Greendogdemo says

    I want to see him rip open Romney’s chest cavity and expose his lack of heart. Then I want him to carve open his head like pumpkin and show the implants from his handlers, with the loop of lies, repeating endlessly, that he delivers so charmingly with his little smirk.

    Seriously, Obama better not apologize for his performance, unless it is to say, “Even i was shocked by Romney’s flipping and flopping like a fish at the last debate. I wonder which Mitt we have tonight? The one who identifies with his hedge fund billionaire buddies (where he got the 47% line), or the magician who can make $5 trillion disappear from his tax cut plan without taking it from the middle class deductions and put coverage for pre-existing conditions back into the hat of his health care plan. Or is it the senior moment Romney who forgot about the benefits he derives from offshoring and outsourcing?

    And oh yeah, Tax Returns, Bain Capital,Seamus the dog, and so much more. Sock it to him , Mr. President.

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