By Dick Morris - 07/13/10 09:32 PM EDT
Any president facing a recession has a basic conundrum to resolve: If he doesn’t try to make people believe that a recovery is in progress, nobody will. But if he tries to make them believe that all is getting better, he risks being seen as out of touch at best or insensitive at worst.
It was just such a predicament that landed George H.W. Bush in trouble in 1991 when he preached that the economy was emerging from the recession, only to be seen as rich and elitist for his efforts. Things got so bad that this verbally challenged president once blurted out his staff’s strategy memo by saying, “Message: I care.” That was about as well-received as Nixon’s statement that “I am not a crook.”
Fifteen million are unemployed and, adding in underemployed, part-time workers and those who have given up looking, the total is 26 million. So Obama’s statements of confidence are a bit like Herbert Hoover’s ritual incantation that “Prosperity is just around the corner.”
Polls show that 70 percent of Americans do not believe that the stimulus program has worked and a similar percentage feel the best thing we could do to create jobs is to cut taxes.
But Obama’s conundrum is that if he is not the font of optimism, who will be? Economists are increasingly coming to see that the so-called recovery was, in fact, a false dawn and that we are entering a double-dip recession (if, indeed, we ever left the initial downturn). In our book 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan, we predict a false dawn followed by a double dip — and now it is upon us.
It is now time for the Republicans to counterattack against Obama by calling him out of touch with the realities of the economy and to take advantage of the commonly held idea that the president doesn’t know what is going on in the streets. In Obama’s case, the GOP cannot then turn “out of touch” into an accusation of insensitivity (as the Democrats did to Bush-41). But they can push the idea that Obama is so wrapped up in his liberal ideology that he cannot see the reality in front of him — that big spending stimulus hasn’t worked and won’t work.
When a president runs around the country saying things that two-thirds of America does not believe, it is time to counterattack vigorously and show how out of touch he really is.
Then, with every invocation of optimism, Obama will be digging himself deeper and deeper into the hole.
Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Outrage, Fleeced and Catastrophe. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by e-mail or to order a signed copy of their latest book, 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan, go to dickmorris.com. In August, Morris became a strategist for the League of American Voters, which is running ads opposing the president’s healthcare reforms.