Obama Drama

There’s been an enormous amount of media commentary in recent days on President Obama’s slipping popularity and what he woulda coulda shoulda done differently. One day after Obama scored his latest big accomplishment — passage of the huge financial reform bill– the NYT puzzles over why Obama’s star is falling and says he hasn’t been able to “change the partisan tone in the capital.” In Politico, editors John Harris and Jim Vandehei say Obama “has shown himself to be a Big Government liberal,” which is “killing him with independent-minded voters.”

I’m skeptical about journalistic second-guessing about political tactics and messaging. When unemployment remains stuck above 9 percent, with a huge share of those people jobless more than six months, nobody is going to be popular.

That said, two new pieces today — one in Salon and one in the Fiscal Times — offer specific examples of tone-deafness at the White House.

At Salon, Andrew Leonard describes Obama’s remarkably bloodless trip yesterday to Michigan for the groundbreaking of a factory that will make batteries for the Chevy Volt and other electric cars. In itself, Leonard says, the visit was a fine way to highlight how economic stimulus money is financing jobs and new energy technology. But he says Obama strikingly failed to make the broader case:

I didn’t hear him talk about how Republicans have blocked the extension of unemployment benefits, or refuse to allow new taxes on hedge fund managers. He didn’t whisper a word about how ridiculous Republican anti-regulation rhetoric sounds in the wake of the biggest financial crisis since the 1930s. Perhaps most disappointing, he didn’t lay out any plan for future action. “We’re not out of the woods yet” he said. But he didn’t breathe a word about how we’re going to get there,

If you suspect that the White House is lackluster in pushing for more aggressive job creation, my colleagues at the Fiscal Times offer this revealing look at the strange fight over $10 billion to prevent teacher layoffs nationwide. Rep. David Obey, chairman of House Appropriations, found a way to attach the money — repeatedly blocked by Republicans in the Senate — to the supplemental funding bill for Afghanistan. But the White House threatened a veto because Obey paid for some of it by cutting 15 percent from “Race to the Top,” Obama’s signature grant program for education reform projects.

Obey told the Fiscal Times’ Eric Pianan and Adam Graham-Silverman that he asked the White House for alternative places to find the money, and that the White House suggested cuts in food stamps. Food stamps? In the middle of protracted unemployment?

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About Edmund L. Andrews 37 Articles

Edmund L. Andrews spent two decades as a business and economics correspondent for The New York Times. During that time, he covered many of the nation ’s most transforming events, from the Internet and biotech revolutions to the emergence of capitalism in central Europe and Russia and the Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan and Ben S. Bernanke. In 2009 he published BUSTED: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown (WW Norton), his own harrowingly personal account of the epic financial crisis. He has frequently appeared on major television and radio news programs, from the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and Today to 20/20, All Things Considered, Lou Dobbs on CNN, the Colbert Show, BBC Worldwide, MSNBC and CNBC.

Ed began his affiliation with The Times in 1988 when he covered patents, telecommunications, and technology. In 1992, he joined the Washington bureau of The Times as a domestic correspondent and reported extensively on the business and politics surrounding the convergence of cable television, the Internet and broadband digital networks. In 1996, Ed became The Times’ European economics correspondent and its Frankfurt bureau chief. He returned to Washington in 2002 and became the bureau’s lead economics correspondent and The Times’ main eyes and ears on the Federal Reserve.

Prior to joining The Times, Ed worked as a magazine writer specializing in business and economics. Before that, he was an assignment editor for Cable News Network in Washington and an education and city government reporter at The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs, Ark.

Ed graduated magna cum laude from Colgate University in 1978 with high honors in international relations. In 1981, he received a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He is married to Patricia Barreiro and has four children – Ryan, Matthew, Daniel and Emily.

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