Every time Obama mentions the word "deficit" in a speech he damages his re-election prospects. Nobody but our Pod Pundits actually give a flying flip about The Deficit right now. Nor should they.
Obama had a terrible response on Social Security. He said he would make cuts ("tweaks") like during Reagan's Presidency. Those "tweaks" included raising the Social Security retirement age from 65 to 67, phased in over time. Obama came off as more of a defender of Medicare.
But his own hope for a Grand Bargain means that Obama can't do what would be the right policy and the best politics: straight-out defense of current benefit levels for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Obama is not ready to defend benefits on those three programs.
Obama also just had to haul out his neoliberal line about people borrowing money to buy houses they couldn't afford. It let Romney make the favorite and false Republican point that that was the root of the financial crisis. Obama's postpartisan egotism leads him to pepper-spray his own message. He did that on Saturday in his weekly address. The White House website description of it is, "In this week's address, President Obama explains his administration’s steps to help the housing market, including giving responsible homeowners a chance to save thousands of dollars every year by refinancing their mortgages, but says we need Congress’s help to do more." (my emphasis) It would again be good policy and good politics to get a lot of help to homeowners facing foreclosure instead of worrying so much about not aiding slackers that he barely helps homeowners. Here is the third paragraph from the transcript:
Millions of Americans who did the right and responsible thing – who shopped for a home, secured a mortgage they could afford, and made their payments on time – were badly hurt by the irresponsible actions of others. By lenders who sold loans to families who couldn’t afford them – and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. By speculators who were looking to make a quick buck. And by banks that packaged and sold those risky mortgages for phony profits. [my emphasis]Here's the video, Weekly Address: It's Time for Congress to Help Responsible [sic] Homeowners 09/29/2012:
On the positive side for Obama in the debate, Romney probably did help himself by talking about small business all the time. Plus Romney smirked through the whole thing, which is not very attractive.
Obama clearly and rightly sees "Obamacare" as a key part of his legacy. It showed in his good defense of the program. But it's also clear that the complicated structure of the program does open it up to nit-picking by Republicans. But I doubt Romney's jabs at Obamacare were that effective.
Just after 1:09:00 in the video, Obama declares, "The first role of the American government is to keep the American people safe." Glenn Greenwald is right when he criticizes that very common statement. It's national-security-state thinking. The first role of the federal govennment is to protect the Constitution. American people would have been safer from violence and death in 1861-65 if Lincoln and the Union had simply surrendered to the Confederacy. Instead, they fought to save democracy and the Constitution. It isn't just a rhetorical point. It's real corruption of the idea of democracy and Constitutional government to frame keeping "the American people safe" as the first role of government the way Obama commonly does and did in this debate. And I'm sad to say that Romney's answer was actually slightly better, though I'm very confident he would put the greed of billionaires ahead of the Constitution every opportunity he got as President.
Obama's point on how he is making financial aid more accessible is surely an appealing one.
Tags: 2012 election, barack obama, romney