Barack Obama Tries To Channel Teddy Roosevelt

Barack Obama now looks to the Rough Rider himself for inspiration. Can't he find it himself?

Yesterday, President Obama reached back in history over a century to a speech by our 25th President in an attempt to shift the political debate:

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — Laying out a populist argument for his re-election next year, President Obama ventured into the conservative heartland on Tuesday to deliver his most pointed appeal yet for a strong governmental role through tax and regulation to level the economic playing field.

“This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share and when everyone plays by the same rules,” Mr. Obama said in an address that sought to tie his economic differences with Republicans into an overarching message.

Infusing his speech with the moralistic language that has emerged in the Occupy protests around the nation, Mr. Obama warned that growing income inequality meant that the United States was undermining its middle class and, “gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America:  that this is the place where you can make it if you try.”

“This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class,” Mr. Obama told the crowd packed into the gym at Osawatomie High School.

“At stake,” he said, “is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.”

Mr. Obama purposefully chose this hardscrabble town of 4,500 people, about 50 miles south of Kansas City, Kan., where Theodore Roosevelt once laid out the progressive platform he called “the New Nationalism” to put forth his case for a payroll tax cut and his broader arguments against the Republican economic agenda in what his aides hoped would be viewed as a defining speech.

Though it was lacking in specific new policy prescriptions, the hourlong speech, and the days of buildup that preceded it, marked the president’s starkest attack on what he described as the “breathtaking greed” that contributed to the economic turmoil still reverberating around the nation. At one point, he noted that the average income of the top 1 percent — adopting the marker that has been the focus of the Occupy movement — has gone up by more than 250 percent, to $1.2 million a year.

The new tack reflected a decision by the White House and the president’s campaign aides that — with the economic recovery still lagging and Republicans in Congress continuing to oppose the president’s jobs proposals — the best course for Mr. Obama is to try to present himself as the defender of working-class Americans and Republicans as defenders of a small elite.

Republicans, though, portrayed the visit to Osawatomie (pronounced oh-suh-WAHT-ah-mee) as an effort by the president to paper over his failed stewardship of the national economy. Though unemployment levels dropped to 8.6 percent last month, they remain higher than the level at which any president has been re-elected since the Great Depression.

It’s not surprising that Obama would be hitting these themes. In reality, they aren’t all that much different from what we’ve seen from the President in different matters for a long time. Last December, even as he was making a deal with the Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts, the President was talking about how the “rich” needed to pay their “fair share,” terms that were, as all political terms are, left purposely vague. The Administration repeated that theme during the March/April budget showdown, during the July/August debt ceiling showdown, and against in September when the President called on the debt Super Committee to put forward a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction and put forward the idea of the “Buffet Rule,” another political term that was left purposely undefined. So, in reality, there’s not much new in what the President had to say yesterday other than the location of where he said and the invocation of the memory of the Rough Rider, which seems to have all started with an appearance by Doris Kearns Goodwin on Meet the Press that Stephen Taylor wrote about earlier this week. In some sense the whole speech struck me as a campaign kickoff speech, although we’ve had many of those types of speeches from the President lately, which makes the fact that the entire trip was funded by the taxpayers rather than the campaign rather ironic.

As an initial thought, though, one wonders if the White House didn’t reach too far in trying to make an analogy between what turned out in the end to be a rather bland policy speech and TR’s 1910 “New Nationalism” speech, which set the ground for his 1912 campaign for the President and the formation of the Progressive (“Bull Moose”) Party. Ron Fournier noted some of the differences in a piece at National Journal:

A century ago, Roosevelt called for a broad range of social and political reforms including a national health service, social insurance for the elderly, a minimum wage, an eight-hour workday, workers’ compensation for work-related injuries, a graduated federal income tax and the right for women to vote.

He railed against the influence of special interests on politics, calling for strict limits and disclosure of campaign donations and the registration of lobbyists.

Obama led with his pitch to extend the payroll tax then laid out a vague long-term agenda: Raise taxes on the wealthy, regulate Wall Street and invest in education, research and infrastructure. Like Roosevelt, he did call for personal responsibility: Parents need to be involved in their kids’ education, students need to study harder, some workers need to be trained for new jobs and home buyers need to live within their means.

Is that all there is? In contrast to Roosevelt’s agenda and Obama’s own case for bold action, the president’s solutions seemed small or unformed.

Moreover, as Jonathan Tobin notes, the problems that America faces in 2011 are in some ways fundamentally different from the ones that existed in Roosevelt’s time:

[U]nlike 1910, the problem today is not that the government is too small and lacks the power to check the excesses of the market. It is that its power is so vast. Today’s federal government is a leviathan whose boot is pressed upon the throats of both individuals and corporations; it consistently deprives our free marketplace the oxygen it needs to thrive and grow. Obama began his speech by speaking of the mortgage debacle that triggered the 2008 collapse but failed to mention the bad debts were largely caused not by an untrammeled free market that begged for more regulation but by government intervention that demanded loans be given to those who could not possibly pay them off. Those who occupy our streets demanding a bigger government and more entitlements may have Obama’s sympathy. But they are out of touch with both economic reality and the sentiments of most taxpayers.

The great dilemma facing the nation is not the grinding poverty of 1910, when no safety net was available. It is the enormous debt that has been created by a system of entitlements that will bankrupt the nation. The middle class Obama says he wants to save will be crushed by that debt. But Obama has ridiculed proposals to reform the system and harps instead on raising taxes on the wealthy, a measure that will kill job creation while doing virtually nothing to fix the problem.unlike 1910, the problem today is not that the government is too small and lacks the power to check the excesses of the market. It is that its power is so vast. Today’s federal government is a leviathan whose boot is pressed upon the throats of both individuals and corporations; it consistently deprives our free marketplace the oxygen it needs to thrive and grow. Obama began his speech by speaking of the mortgage debacle that triggered the 2008 collapse but failed to mention the bad debts were largely caused not by an untrammeled free market that begged for more regulation but by government intervention that demanded loans be given to those who could not possibly pay them off. Those who occupy our streets demanding a bigger government and more entitlements may have Obama’s sympathy. But they are out of touch with both economic reality and the sentiments of most taxpayers.

The great dilemma facing the nation is not the grinding poverty of 1910, when no safety net was available. It is the enormous debt that has been created by a system of entitlements that will bankrupt the nation. The middle class Obama says he wants to save will be crushed by that debt. But Obama has ridiculed proposals to reform the system and harps instead on raising taxes on the wealthy, a measure that will kill job creation while doing virtually nothing to fix the problem.

And it’s worth remembering just how bizarre some of Roosevelt’s ideas were, not just for his ideas, but for ours. Matt Welch does a great job of cataloging those in his piece at Reason, but it’s this quote where TR defines that “New Nationalism” he spoke of in Osawatomie in 1910:

The American people are right in demanding that New Nationalism, without which we cannot hope to deal with new problems. The New Nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage. It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from over division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock. This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the steward of the public welfare. It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.

What Roosevelt was asking for then, wasn’t just “social justice,” but a sublimation of the individual to the state, or as he referred to it, the nation, and a concentration of power in the hands of the Executive. Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of that over the past 100 years and the results haven’t exactly been all that great. I have no doubt, though, that TR, with his fascination with the myth of war-as-adventure would very much enjoy exercising the enhanced foreign policy and war making powers that the President has acquired since he held the office, especially since he was lobbying for American involvement in the foolish European war that become World War One almost as soon as it began in 1914. In fact, one can say that America may have been fortunate that TR lost the Presidential election in 1912, and declined to run in 1916, although one can’t really say that the Wilsonian take on the war was ultimately any better.

All of this brings up another thought. For some bizarre reason, this Administration seems to have a compulsion to compare this President to his predecessors. At various times, Barack Obama has been the next FDR, the next Jack Kennedy, the next Ronald Reagan, and now the next Teddy Roosevelt. What’s next resurrecting the legacy of Millard Fillmore? A President who is truly a leader comfortable in their leadership doesn’t need to be comparing themselves to their predecessors as much as this President’s surrogates do. All it does is make him look weak. Rather than trying to be TR, Obama needs to be Obama. The problem is, he’s been Obama for 3 years now and we can all see the results.

Yves Smith sums up the President’s speech quite nicely:

Wow, I have to hand it to Obama’s spinmeisters. They’ve managed to find a way to resurrect his old hopium branding by calling it something completely different that still has many of the old associations.

That pretty much sums it up. There was nothing new in this speech that we haven’t heard from Barack Obama since he was just a junior Senator running for President. He can make a claim, perhaps, that the rhetoric worked in 2008, although I’d argue that the main reason he won then is because everyone hated Bush, and by extension McCain, and the economy was in horrible shape. Whether he’s going to be able to use the same kind of class warfare rhetoric to divert the public’s attention from his own record of poor performance, broken promises, and bad leadership is an open question.

Photo via Washington Examiner

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    Politician reaches back into history to identify himself with well-known (and hopefully well-regarded) figure! NEWS AT 11!

    The choice is a pretty good one, if you ask me. Teddy was a progressive. Yes, 1910 != 2011. Point taken.

    As for this being nothing new from Obama… what, you want him to flip flop?

    😉

  2. Rob in CT says:

    And you approvingly quote a guy who makes the repeatedly debunked claim that the 2008 crash was caused by the awful government pushing around the the banks. This is a total falsehood. It has been pointed out to you repeatedly. There is a wealth of data that shows this to be silly (including the fact that there were housing bubbles all over the world), but apparently you just don’t care. Something bad happened, therefore it was the government’s fault (since the market doesn’t make gigantic mistakes like that. It’s pure and noble and self-regulating).

  3. PD Shaw says:

    If everybody wanted a Teddy Roosevelt, they would have voted for McCain.

  4. MBunge says:

    “the problem today is not that the government is too small and lacks the power to check the excesses of the market. It is that its power is so vast. Today’s federal government is a leviathan whose boot is pressed upon the throats of both individuals and corporations; it consistently deprives our free marketplace the oxygen it needs to thrive and grow.”

    Anyone who thinks THAT’S the problem we have today is not a serious person.

    Mike

  5. grumpy realist says:

    And could we please get rid of that canard that the Eeevil Wicked government FORCED all those nasty bad loans on banks?! Go look at what really happened, Doug. Go read Calculated Risk (including all the stuff Tanta (R.I.P) wrote.). It wasn’t the government that forced banks into the whole securitization mess, getting the rating agencies to slap AAA on everything, etc. It was the banks’ greed and carelessness about the quality of what they put together. It USED to be that banks held on to loans they made, so they were much more cautious about the quality of the loans. After they discovered the magic beans of securitization, it became really easy to ignore any sort of loan checking–they were going to sell the stuff off; they didn’t need worry if it was going to blow up in someone else’s face down the road. After all, they had the magic rating, they had the suckersbuyers, and everyone was going to get RICH with their endless games of pass-the-potato.

  6. PD Shaw says:

    Doug, you clipped Yves Smith’s other observation. Teddy’s initial recogntion came from reforming corrupt local politics (and got booted upstairs for his trouble). Obama’s greatest accomplishment in Illinois was negotiating the ethics reform that would allow his political bosses to retire wealthy. I suppose that’s old news, but it doesn’t seem like many knew or understood Blagojevich or Roland Burris when Obama was first elected.

  7. Moosebreath says:

    MBunge,

    “Anyone who thinks THAT’S the problem we have today is not a serious person.”

    Exactly. I already knew Jonathan Tobin (note correct spelling of his name) was an idealogue not to be taken seriously from his time at Philly’s Jewish Exponent. I guess he’s getting a chance to show it on a national scale.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    “… It is that its power is so vast. Today’s federal government is a leviathan whose boot is pressed upon the throats of both individuals and corporations; it consistently deprives our free marketplace the oxygen it needs to thrive and grow….”

    Someone actually wrote that with a straight face? You Libertarians are f’ing delusional. If the free-market place has been deprived of the oxygen it needs to grow…how do you explain record corporate profits? Corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenue have dropped from more than 30 percent 50 years ago to less than 10 percent now. Was the Bush Contraction caused by over-regulation? Yeah…not so much. OOOH…what a leviathan. You might want to look that word up.

    “…The problem is, he’s been Obama for 3 years now and we can all see the results…”

    Yes we can see the results. GDP is back to where it was pre-Bush Contraction. The Dow is over 12,000 today…it was under 8000 when Bush left office. The Auto industry is back on steady ground. The private sector has created jobs for 21 months in a row. It’s the Libertarian wet-dream of shrinking Government, and thus firing public sector workers, that is holding the UE numbers up.
    Name a similar economy in a similar hole recovering any faster…until you can do that you are just spewing partisan talking points based on dreams of some kind of Utopia that has never, ever existed in history…and not the real world we live in.

  9. Tano says:

    Seems kinda lame to be criticizing Obama for pointing out how his positions and philosophy are grounded in historical precedent. It is something that everyone does in politics – so I really don’t understand why you think these charges would get any traction.

    Especially when the rabid opposition to Obama is trying to claim that he and his policies are totally alien to the American political landscape. Pointing out how other admired figures in the past have held similar positions seems like an obvious thing to do. It doesn’t make him seem weak at all – rather well grounded.

    You admit that there is nothing particularly new in the speech – as if that were a bad thing. The whole point of the speech seemed to be an explanation of his positions, not some abandonment of them. You sound like you are just tossing off insults by rote, rather than thinking though this situation.

    Finally, your analysis of TR’s words seem also bizarre. You quote him saying that the executive should be the steward of the nation’s welfare, the judiciary should be concerned with human welfare moreso than property, and the legislature should represent the interests of all the people rather than special interests. How does this equate to “a concentration of power in the hands of the Executive.”???

    How on earth can you twist his words to claim that he is demanding a subjugation of the individual to the state? Because he expects politicians to put the national interest above local concerns? You seem to just be ranting from an ideological script here – not concerned at all with what the man actually said.

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Yep. That’s what I meant in my post on this subject when I said it shouldn’t be examined too closely.

  11. brummagem joe says:

    You remain somewhat blinkered Doug. Obama was laying down his vision versus the Republican vision (scrap longstanding programs that provide security for the middle class; more de-regulation; shut down the EPA/Education departments etc; give millionaires more tax cuts). Essentially Bush Redux. You can sneer at it Doug, and tell us how one of America’s greatest presidents was a bit loony, but when it gets down to short strokes I have a hunch the American people are going buy Obama’s vision and not that of whichever crazy or flip flopper the Republican’s nominate.

  12. Joe,

    The American people may or they may not buy the President’s message, we”ll see. My point is that trying to sell this speech as something new was kind of silly.

  13. alanstorm says:

    @Hey Norm:

    “If the free-market place has been deprived of the oxygen it needs to grow…how do you explain record corporate profits?”

    You actually said that with a straight face? Equating big business with the free market? Also, please explain how “retaining profits” = “growth”. I’ll wait.

    “Corporate taxes as a percentage of federal revenue have dropped from more than 30 percent 50 years ago to less than 10 percent now.” What’s your point, if you have one?

    The rest of your comment is equally irrational.

    “The Auto industry is back on steady ground.” Prove it. Let’s say it is – are you saying that the extra-legal means used is justified because GM and Chrysler are still – for now – in business?

    “The private sector has created jobs for 21 months now.” That must be why unemployment is twice GWB’s average.

    “It’s the Libertarian wet-dream of shrinking Government, and thus firing public sector workers, that is holding the UE numbers up.” May it continue, if true!

    If you think that the federal government is not a leviathan whose boot is pressed upon the throats of both individuals and corporations, I suggest you trot over to http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2011/12/another-freaking-tax.html and take a look. Contemplate, if any of you are capable, the idea that these are only the aboveboard taxes for one locality in a single state, and what it means to keep up with just this one area. Now multiply by the number of counties in the US.

    Anyone who thinks that a lack of government is the current biggest problem is not a thinking person.

  14. Hey Norm says:

    Extra-legal???
    Is that like extra-large???
    Or extra-pickle???

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Obama channeling Teddy Roosevelt is sort of like Justin Timberlake channeling Lee Marvin or Menudo channeling Metallica.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    @Dave Schuler: I was thinking of you with respect to my comment about McCain. I believe your main problem with McCain was his identification and desire to personify Teddy.

  17. Hey Norm says:

    alanstorm raised Bush’s employment record…OK.
    Bush inherited a 4.3% UE and left 7.3% and crashing…it wasn’t steady-state so to pick that number as a benchmark to calculate an average is so mis-leading as to be a lie…but no matter. That means Bush increased UE 67% over the course of his 8 years. For Obama to match that sterling record UE would have to go above 12%.
    Obviously we don’t know what Obama’s average will be. But Bush, and pseudo-conservative rightist policies, left a job market shedding 600,000 jobs a month. Not sure I would point to that wonderful performance if it were me.

  18. PD Shaw says:

    At various times, Barack Obama has been the next FDR, the next Jack Kennedy, the next Ronald Reagan, and now the next Teddy Roosevelt. What’s next resurrecting the legacy of Millard Fillmore?

    Also, the Doris Kearns Goodwin-related stint as the next Abraham Lincoln. I think that was rather superficially political messaging: distancing from Chicago by going to Springfield; the second greatest President didn’t have a lot of experience; voting for an African-American fulfills a national aspiration . . .

    Still, Obama shares some of Lincoln’s coolness and personal detachment that might make him a better exemplar for Obama to follow. If he’s not going to break up banks too-big-to-fail and shout at people until the spittle runs free from his ‘stache, then look for another hero.

  19. sam says:

    @alanstorm:

    If you think that the federal government is not a leviathan whose boot is pressed upon the throats of both individuals and corporations, I suggest you trot over to http://www.coyoteblog.com/coyote_blog/2011/12/another-freaking-tax.html and take a look.

    Alan, you’re reading skills need some honing. Mr. Coyote was pissing and moaning about Alabama state and county taxes, not federal taxes.

  20. Drew says:

    I knew Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was a friend of mine, Barack, you are no………

    Nah. Too obvious.

  21. ponce says:

    Shorter Doug:

    I don’t like Obama.

  22. Hey Norm says:

    Shorter Drew….
    “…an original thought has never crossed my mind…”

  23. Hey Norm says:

    @ Ponce…
    I’m sure what bugs Doug even more than Obama…is that while Doug has been ignoring the OWS movement in favor of focusing on his drum circle obsession…no fetish…it has become the story of the year and Obama is amplifying the OWS message of inequality. It’s kind of like reporting on the 9’ers Bengals Championship Game and writing about the cheerleaders instead of “The Drive”. But not everyone can have a grasp of the obvious…and I’m sure there are other drum circle fetishists out there.

  24. ponce says:

    @Hey Norm

    I have a feeling Doug was this misanthropic long before Obama got into politics.

    Here are the possible questions that are going to be put to the Republican candidates at their upcoming ABC/Yahoo debate:

    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20111206145117AAc4mrF

    Confirms your assertion that OWS is the story of the year.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    If everybody wanted a Teddy Roosevelt, they would have voted for McCain.

    Oh really? I doubt that TR was ever so desperate that he would have picked someone like Sarah Palin to be his running mate…

    Meanwhile, Doug should just admit that people like the President and TR offend his (as well as those that he links to) tender libertarian sensibilities and then we can all just move on…

  26. Richard Gardner says:

    This made me do a Google on the wunder-kind speechwriter, Jon Favreau. I think they are ‘grasping at straws.” Somehow the mechanisms of the Presidents speeches have retreated (as they should never have been highlighted). [I bet he goes into Wall $treet next.]

    TR was certainly a populist, but Obama is no TR (LOL). Never killed an elephant, never charged San Juan Hill, never spent time in a tent in the fly-over territories of the Dakotas (has he ever spent time in a small tent? (not one with a full wood floor and a butler))

  27. PD Shaw says:

    I guess “An Interested Party” is not so interested in contemporary events to be aware of the McCain / Teddy Roosevelt identification.

    Somewhat interested.

  28. jan says:

    Obama continues to be loose and vague regarding his facts. The Kansas speech exemplfied that — more soaring rhetoric that was weak in substance, with little evidence to support his claims.

    What the prez is good at doing is creating tremendous rifts between classes. There is a no-holds-barred from what he will say in order to get re-elected.

  29. ponce says:

    more soaring rhetoric that was weak in substance, with little evidence to support his claims.

    Jan,

    For Christmas, ask for self-awareness…please.

    Our irony meter can’t take any more.

  30. Steve says:

    …and against in September when the President called on the debt Super Committee to put forward a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction and put forward the idea of the “Buffet Rule,” another political term that was left purposely undefined.

    Millionaires should be subject to a higher effective rate of taxation than the middle class. That’s the Buffett Rule. With two T’s. It’s a normative standard for tax reform.

    I don’t know how you don’t know this. It was defined clearly when it was debuted. Frankly, I’m starting to suspect you’re lying to me, which is why I stopped reading at that point. The post seemed longer, but I doubt there was anything of substance in it since, y’know, the Buffett Rule is a very simple concept to wrap one’s mind around and screwing that up betrays either horrific comprehension of the issues or a craven twisting of the truth.

  31. An Interested Party says:

    @PD Shaw: Oh, let me assure you that I am quite aware of the link, but that doesn’t mean that McCain is really anything like TR…

  32. sam says:

    “Barack Obama now looks to the Rough Rider himself for inspiration. Can’t he find it himself?”

    Evidently no more than Republicans can cease fellating the shade of Ronald Reagan.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    A thoughtful conservative I enjoy reading (Daniel Larison) pointed out the obvious: TR wasn’t a conservative, and (I’m paraphrasing) thus Obama can have him.

    Simple, no? TR was a progressive (an early 20th century one, of course). Obama is kinda sorta a progressive (21st century). They match up reasonably well if you squint a bit. And, as has been pointed out, this helps illustrate that Obama’s views are not weird unAmerican craziness, but rather firmly rooted in the American political tradition.

    Not bad for a Kenyan anticolonial commiefacistislamist.

  34. Hey Norm says:

    Oh boy…there’s Jan with her same old mindless bullshit:

    “…What the prez is good at doing is creating tremendous rifts between classes…”

    Actually Obama’s speech was about undoing years of pseudo-conservative rightist war waged on the middle-class. From 1979 to the present middle class wages have grown around 18%…the wealthiest ,on the other hand, have seen their income grow almost 300%. Jan herself has stated on these very same comment sections that the poor and the sick and the elderly need to pay more taxes. But not the wealthiest…the mythical job creators.
    Republicanists are the ones who attack unions, the ones who claim that unemployment encourages the lazy slobs who draw it not to look for work, the ones who are always fighting to abolish social safety nets, the ones who do everything they can to supress votes, the ones who want to slash pell grants and education funding. The Republicanists have theirs…and they want to pull the ladder up behind them.
    One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if a Republican is accusing someone of doing something, it’s probably something they are guilty of and wish to project onto the other guy. Think Ted Haggard, think Newt during the Clinton impeachment, think stupid class warfare charges.
    It’s not Jan’s fault really…she’s just a fool that listens to, and parrots, everything they say.

  35. Andre Kenji says:

    No, in fact Democrats usually resorts to populism when they are desperate. Dukakis did the same thing on the last months of the 1988 Presidential Election.

  36. john personna says:

    Much ado about nothing. It is not a transformative narrative. As we see above, it simply allows pundits to man the existing barricades.

    (Actually, It wasn’t “much” ado, more like a one-day flurry.)

  37. anjin-san says:

    What the prez is good at doing is creating tremendous rifts between classes

    Ah so. Today, Obama is once again a Demigod who reshapes America as if it were so much putty in his hands.

    And tomorrow, he will go back to being a helpless empty suit, an ineffectual weakling who is in way over his head.

    It’s remarkable how easily the right slides back and forth between these two nonsensical memes…

  38. mantis says:

    What the prez is good at doing is creating tremendous rifts between classes.

    No. Years of backwards economic policies have created a tremendous rift between classes. Right now the bottom 80% of the population holds 7% of the wealth in this country. That’s the rift, and President Obama didn’t create it.

  39. Nexialist says:

    Obama is an elitist, not a populist. He can’t hide his phoniness.

  40. Midas says:

    “This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share and when everyone plays by the same rules…”

    Ok, Mr. Obama – how about you and your Congresscritter friends start first? Obamacare? Un-exempt yourselves. Insider trading? It’s illegal for us – why not for you?

    There’s a long list of things that you and yours do that would land the rest of us in prison.

    Start there, then when we’re all in the same boat, maybe you can come back and lecture about everyone playing by the same rules, m’kay? Until then, I think most of us would prefer you shut the heck up.

  41. Nexialist says:

    @mantis: Much is demographic. The older demographic has held the majority of the wealth for decades. The baby boom generation has reached retirement age.

  42. Midas says:

    @sam:

    … says the Democrat busy fellating Obama, lol.

  43. Jimbob says:

    Obama is just like his Hollywood Actor fans …

    Playing someone else … so he can hide who he really is

    All we’ve seen so far is a hologram, replayed and replayed and replayed ….!!

  44. Buster Bunns says:

    @Hey Norm: Sure big business is thriving because they have the money to steer government contracts and other government largesse their way. Small business is dying on the vine and going out of business in record numbers. Government supported business where losses are become public responsibility and profits private, is not market-driven. It is fascism. Which is what we have got. Look no further than our big banks, big car manufacturers, big alternative energy companies, big defence manufacturers, big insurance companies. All are suckling on the government teat.

  45. Not voting for him says:

    “This country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share and when everyone plays by the same rules,” Mr. Obama said

    The problem is everyone DOESNT do their fair share, and everyone doesnt play by the same rules. Just ask Nancy “Insider Trading” Pelosi and all the slackers out there relying on Govt handouts because its easier than going out job hunting

  46. GarandFan says:

    Poor Barry. At first he let himself be a blank slate on which you could see what you wanted to see. But that wasn’t good enough. So Barry decided he was JFK. No. FDR. No. Lincoln. And now he’s TR. This man has some serious psychological problems.

    Let’s call him what he really is. An empty suit.

  47. M says:

    Sounds like echoes of Karl Marx.

  48. Neo says:

    What makes this oh so funny is the 30-Sept-1913 New York Times editorial that pretty much calls Teddy Roosevelt a “wack job”. It ends with

    The fatal defect of it is that the American people are far too intelligent, they have too much common sense to be deluded by the shallow sophistries of the Roosevelt Socialism. But the Colonel had to do something, his party is going to pieces.

    Guess it still applies.

  49. mantis says:

    Insider trading? It’s illegal for us – why not for you?

    Because Eric Cantor won’t let it come to a vote in the House.

  50. Dazedandconfused says:

    @GarandFan:

    Could be an “empty suit”. Can’t tell yet.

    The man was a rookie politician, and not even a well-mentored one. As a statesman he has had to learn on the job from scratch. It is unfortunate that it had to be that way, but it is what it is.

    I am detecting more boldness in this speech. I get the sense that he has learned that being “presider in chief” between honest people is not this job, not at all. Forget all that Jean-Jacques Rousseau -man-is-naturally-good-crap and embrace your inner Machiavelli, because the way of the world is the strong rule and the weak go to the wall.

    Politics is simply class warfare. Might as well saddle up and quit pretending the other side simply doesn’t understand your points. They won’t until they have no choice.

    Now that Obama has realized he is not as smart as he thought he was, and understands the game a bit better, we will see if there is anything in that suit or not.

  51. Ilpalazzo says:

    This, of course, is Obama’s attempt at deflecting the fact that he is bought and paid for by Teddy. Sadly, Teddy Roosevelt isn’t Teddy Kennedy, Obama. Nice try, better luck next time.

  52. Jay says:

    I’m just sitting here howling with laughter at some of these comments. Good grief, the snotty condescension of a bunch of progressives who don’t seem to notice what even a public defecator OWS protester knows: that Barack Obama is the greatest enabler of corporate corruption since, well, at least the last guy. Absolutely hilarious. Where are all his donations coming from? Who got the bulk of the stimulus money? Why did it seem funny to the President to admit that “shovel ready” wasn’t exactly truth in advertising? And by the way, why does it take two stimulus bills to actually start “repairing our crumbling infrastructure”TM? Wasn’t that the purpose of the last one? I don’t see any great blue collar jobs programs, do you?

    Frankly, I don’t think many progressives can even grasp the basic contours of the libertarian critique of this President. The responses are all emotive hot-button jargon about “warfare on the middle class” and “rightist thugs.” Get real. The libertarian critique isn’t that progressive policies, specifically Obama’s, don’t benefit businesses enough, but that they benefit businesses in a targeted, preferential pattern. Gibson gets busted. The Boeing plant in SC gets shut down. Yet scumbag John Corzine was about to be tapped for Sec Treas, notwithstanding his sticky fingers and utter lack of ethical grounding.

    If you really want to know what’s going on, it’s that big business has colluded with big government to write regulations that, while ostensibly coming down hard on big business, actually give big government the ability to rig the market for a few players.

    Why else does our government force taxpayers to underwrite crappy loans to crappy alt energy companies and then subordinate taxpayers’ place in line at bankruptcy court to investors who just happen to have maxed out their contributions to Obama’s reelection campaign? Big business has every incentive to get big government to backstop its losses with taxpayer money, and it has every incentive to game the system so that failure or success isn’t contingent on great ideas and great execution, but on a friendly regulatory environment.

    The bills Congress passes that supposedly rein in big business (Sarbanes-Oxley, for example) actually have far more negative implications for small businesses. You guys object to the Coyote Blog link complaining about state and local taxes, but you forget that lots of those taxes are due to fed mandates, and they strangle small businesses every day. I know from personal experience that I don’t dare argue with the IRS about what taxes I owe, but Warren Buffett can drag out the negotiations for years and probably get a favorable settlement for his trouble. (And let’s not get into the hypocrisy of calling for higher taxes on the rich while evading your own taxes.)

    See, I can’t bribe big government to use its virtually limitless power to guarantee my financial success. Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t use my IPO (premium stock worth $$$ for you basketweaving majors) for toilet paper, but she’ll write a great bill with some nice loopholes for Visa while they pretend she’s gutting them. But while Pelosi gets to be Savior of the Middle Class from Teh Ebil Veeza, that same bill hurt a lot of small merchants I know, who ended up ponying up more money to poor, struggling Visa, courtesy of Pelosi. Oops.

    See, the problem isn’t just that big business is too powerful. They’re just doing what businesses do, trying to make a buck. The problem is they’ve discovered this awesome tool, government, that will give them an insurmountable advantage over the competition, ensuring no one ever challenges their market share. And politicians, being the venal creatures they are, see a great opportunity to ensure their reelection with massive donations from big business, along with a sweet gig as a benchwarmer on some corporate board (like Bill Clinton at Corzine’s little firm) after they get tired of political life.

    Government, and most especially government unrestrained by the Constitution is like Tolkein’s One Ring. Everybody wants it, and it corrupts everyone who touches it. Once you get rid of it, suddenly everyone has to go back to earning their own way, earning their own votes, scrapping with the up-and-comers who keep them accountable and on their toes. Most of whom don’t have a chance as long as someone like Obama is in office.

    Simple as that.

  53. Jay says:

    @Buster Bunns:

    Great comment.

  54. Jay says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Actually, I find Obama has more in common with the early admirers of European fascism. Not the death camps and all that, but the unholy alliance of big government and certain favored businesses. That’s certainly within the American political tradition if you want to get technical about it. Lots of Hitler fans in the 30’s, and most of them for economic reasons, although there is that nasty white supremacist strain in the progressive movement…..

  55. markit8dude says:

    ‘Though it was lacking in specific new policy prescriptions’.

    I’ve read HUNDREDS of different excuses, err ‘versions’ of Uhbama being vague, not forthcoming or speeches lacking ‘prescription’.

    The man’s speeches are vague, lacking specifics because Uhbama is vague. The dude’s persona is nothingness.

    I’ve had more forthcomingness from acquaintances. Cab drivers. Grocery store checkout people.

    -Independent non kool-aid drinker

  56. clayusmcret says:

    Every president leaves a mark. History will show that for obama, it’s “ENVY is now an American Principle”.

  57. Alabama Mike says:
  58. An Interested Party says:

    Those who critique the President could be taken more seriously if they didn’t include comparisons to Marx and Hitler and if they revealed the whole truth that both parties are deep in the pockets of big business…the arguments above look like the writing of hacks who appear to be far more partisan than the progressives who have commented on this thread…

  59. Hey Norm says:

    @ Buster Bunns…
    As it has been forever….long before Obama.
    Out of one side of so-called republicans mouths come claims that Obama is against business…out the other side comes the claim that Obama is in the pocket of business. Someone should clear up those talking points for you.
    Do you own a house? How’s that government housing subsidy working out for you?
    Do you get insurance from an employer? How’s that health care subsidy working out for you?
    Get deductions for your kids? How’s that subsidy working out for you?
    We’re all on the Government teat. Some of us just have a better grasp of reality than you.

  60. Karl Magnus says:

    This campaign speech was disingenuous and historically inaccurate as many of us know.

    QUOTE: “Is that all there is? In contrast to Roosevelt’s agenda and Obama’s own case for bold action, the president’s solutions seemed small or unformed.”

    In “contrast” to Teddy Roosevelt, B. Hussein Obama has never been a LEADER. He’s a disinterested delagator of those things he thinks might get his hands dirty. Exactly what has Obama EVER led? I mean besides protests and anti-Constitutional-inciting ramblings?
    Say what you will about T.R., but HE was a MAN’S Man, not a man-child in mom jeans.
    Oh, and when did Obama serve his country in the military?
    I’d follow Teddy Roosevelt up ANY hill. Obama would delegate that point to someone (most people) that he perceives to be expendable. There’s an allegory in there somewhere.

    IF “The New Nationalism” had actually taken hold, America would NEVER had involved itself in WWI that was NONE of OUR business.

    Just UndØ it.
    ~(Ä)~

  61. Dazedandconfused says:

    Actually Jay, the knock on Obama is supposed to be that he is anti-business. Have to pick your poison with this corporatist stuff.

  62. An Interested Party says:

    …B. Hussein Obama…

    ODS victim alert…