Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mr. Multi-Tasker (sort of)

Yes, the "hard pivot to jobs" is back, for the umpteenth time. The RNC notes that this is the 15th time that the Administration has announced its focus is shifting to job creation. Ben Smith at Politico (hat tip: The Campaign Spot) takes issue with the specific count, but has to admit that the observation is valid:
February 2009: In a speech to Congress, Obama says his economic plan will be focused on jobs.

November 2009, during the lull in health care debate: “This is my administration's overriding focus.”

January 2010: “What they can expect from this administration, and I know what they can expect from you, is that we are going to have a sustained and relentless focus over the next several months on accelerating the pace of job creation, because that's priority number one.”

April 2010: Post health-care, Obama goes on a bunch of “Main Street” tour stops to talk about jobs in April and May.

June 2010: The beginning of recovery summer.

December 2010: “And I think we are past the crisis point in the economy, but we now have to pivot and focus on jobs and growth.”

January 2011: Obama’s State of the Union focuses on jobs and afterward he makes a big jobs push (even though Egypt is taking up his, and the world's attention), launches “Startup America” initiative.

Obama's spokesman Jay Carney realized something really important about the pivot talk and tried to counter it:
Q: The President has repeatedly pivoted back to jobs, as he did again yesterday. Why is this time any different? Why should the Americans have any confidence this time?

MR. CARNEY: Well, let’s be clear. The President has been focusing on jobs and the economy since the day he was sworn into office, during a month that saw the loss of 800,000 -- nearly 800,000 American jobs in just one month. And that was the situation that he encountered when he took the oath. And that has been his focus since he became President.

There is no question that as President you have to deal with other problems. And in this case, the debt ceiling crisis, if you will, was a manufactured crisis. It was a self-inflicted wound. It was the linkage between something that Congress absolutely has to do -- which is extend the borrowing authority of the United States government -- to specific legislation that one-half of one body of Congress wanted passed.

So Carney's claim is that Obama doesn't need to pivot back to job creation because he's always been focused on it. Good attempt... but Carney then sabotages his own spin by admitting that because Obama had to "deal with other problems," he couldn't make any headway on job creation. He reiterates it later in the briefing:
What the President is saying now, and what you will be hearing him saying, is that you, the American citizen, have heard a lot of talk in Washington about debt ceilings and deficits; and while those are important issues -- very important -- and they have -- they are important in relation to our economy, and they are important in relation to jobs if they are addressed appropriately -- there are other things we can do directly that affect jobs and economic growth.

And that’s what he’s saying. This is not a -- I think “pivot” is not an appropriate word. It’s refocusing. It’s continuing the focus that we’ve had and allowing us to focus even more intently now that we have reached the compromise that was reached with Congress a couple of days ago.

Now, I seem to recall a moment in the 2008 Presidential campaign when John McCain suspended his campaign and called for postponing a debate so that he could go back to Washington to help deal with the burgeoning financial crisis. I also recall that Obama dismissed the call to postpone the debate derisively:
“It’s my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess,” Mr. Obama said. “It is going to be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once.”

So, riddle me this: how is it that the President who came into office knowing he had to be able to deal with more than one thing at once never seemed to be able to keep dealing with the unemployment crisis whenever some other problem arose? Where's that multi-tasking skill been for the last 30 months, Mr. President?

Maybe Obama's multi-tasking capability means he can deal with only one thing at a time in his day job as President while carrying a full fundraising schedule.

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