Why didn’t the president think of that? After all, politicians are so good at spin.
Let’s start with the end of this piece and work back…
Don’t talk about the deficit as a historic deficit. Talk about it as a historic investment. Make the subject record unemployment relief, and record state relief, and record job spending, and record small business investments, and record tax cuts. Tell a positive story you want to defend rather than a negative story you want to apologize for. Obama likes to blame Bush and the recession for the deficit. Substantively, it’s right. Politically, it looks like excuse-making. The average Americans thinks this is Obama’s budget. He needs to defend it like he owns the thing.
Okay, break this down….
The Democratic-controlled Congress was substantially responsible for the deficit, and the Republicans certainly share the blame. And blaming Bush (for everything) is excuse-making, especially given the decisions and policies of this president’s first year in office.
Obama won’t own anything negative. Look how he blamed everyone in the house (and senate) at the SOTU for everything he sees wrong…..even that unprecedented shot at the Supreme Court. It would be good if he did, as Derek Thompson suggests here. Own your actions and policies and decisions and words. Didn’t Obama run on acccountability….among other things?
So back at the start of the Atlantic piece, and how Obama is failing to defend his budget. Thompson excises good snips that make his point well, snips of what Obama is saying about his budget (he seems to be calling it a “terrible mistake”; treating American’s dollars like Monopoly money; or…
where he makes the weird argument that the administration should be more penny-pinching during a recession, while all of his policies (and Keynesian economic theory) call for expanding government aid to states, businesses and individuals…
Here is what I’m hearing: “This is not my deficit. I don’t like it at all. Deficits are terrible mistakes, and the government always treats your taxes like Monopoly money, and we really should be tightening our belts now by now.” Obama sounds like his own budget’s best critic!
I can’t imagine this self-critical approach will win public support. One heuristic I use to gauge whether I think a framing device will work is: Can I imagine some bloke on the street repeating it with a news camera in his face? So: can I imagine a some self-described moderate independent say to a CNN camera, “I really respect Obama for admitting how much he despises all the numbers in his budget”? No, I cannot. Here’s what I can imagine: “Did you hear about how horrible this budget and deficit is? Even the president hates it!
No worries. Obama is not given to the self-critical approach, for any purpose.