President Obama and the truckers

“I just can’t catch a break, can l?” In the classic movie “Primary Colors,” those are the words deliciously uttered by John Travolta, playing a candidate channeling Bill Clinton. This week or last, I suspect that President Obama had one of his own “can’t catch a break” moments. I know this because his frustration with the economy finally boiled over into the goofy quote that the economy is reeling like someone “hit by a truck.”

Where did that analogy come from? And why was it chosen? I can’t be convinced that it was extemporaneous. The president is too calculating and strategic an individual to suddenly fire off a line like that without giving it a lot of thought and planning. Clearly, the brain trust set upon the course to link the recession with being hit by a truck. But I didn’t really get it initially.

ADVERTISEMENT
To try and get wise, I surfed over to 18wheeleraccidentsattorney.com, the go-to site for people maimed by trucks in Texas. It routes truck-accident victims to the “on your side” attorneys of Burwell Nebout Trial Lawyers and takes a very fact-based approach to selling their services. The site tells us that 18-wheelers account for one in eight (or nine — depending, I suppose, on who is counting) traffic deaths. The attorneys cite statistics that despite the fact that these trucks account for only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, they are “responsible for 12 percent of all traffic fatalities.” The site also asserts that the No. 1 cause of truck accidents is driver fatigue or exhaustion, followed by excessive speed or failure to follow the rules of the road.

The trial lawyers then get to the big sell, reminding victims, “When you are injured in a catastrophic big rig accident, you have a limited amount of time to take action and preserve your case.” They go on to say that “protecting your rights for recovery is a priority” for their attorneys and that they will “determine the causes and factors involved to apportion liability between the entities involved and hold them accountable for the injuries caused.” 

Oh, now I get it. Obama is trying to set up a new set of “rights” growing out of the recession, and he will be the counselor for the rights-holders in order to hold the wrongdoers accountable.

The analogy got juicier when I read on the 18-wheeler site that accident claims for truck victims are “extremely complicated” and the assistance of the firm’s services is required for a just solution. Perplexed Americans are likely to fall prey to this characterization of the flakey economy we’re in — as exceedingly complex, proving the need for a smart leader like the president.

My online seminar in getting hit by a truck tells me that the administration is setting a new course in management of this issue. It now realizes that the recession will not end before November 2012, so it has to manage the mess it’s in. The White House will start its defense with a lot of facts that suggest it knows what is going on. Then it will give us a double dose of how complicated things are, just in case someone starts to think in simple terms like, “The government is too big and spends too much money.” Then the administration will start to demonize someone like exhausted investment bankers or fast-driving mortgage lenders. And then the new “rights” will be asserted, with privileges under those rights to be realized only with them in the White House for four more years.

The president might have said that the recession hit us like a rockslide or a bolt of lightning, but he purposefully chose the truck accident as this own. I now get it.

David Hill is a pollster that has worked for Republican candidates and causes since 1984.