Obama Answers Reagan’s Question
In an interview, President Obama says that Americans are worse off than they were four years ago.
In his one and only debate with Jimmy Carter during the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan summed up the choice that he and the President were putting before America’s voters in one question:
For a large number of Americans, the answer to Reagan’s question was a clear and emphatic no. During Jimmy Cater’s Presidency, America had experienced slow growth made worse by massive price inflation, energy prices that were persistently unstable thanks mostly to political factors half a world away, and a general sense that the country was headed down the wrong path. Internationally, the nation was being humiliated by a hostage crisis in Iran that had been going on for more than a year and didn’t seem to be likely to end soon, terrorism in the Middle East that threatened war, and Soviet expansion into Afghanistan. It’s no surprise then, that when Americans walked into the polling booth on November 4th, they answered Reagan’s question with a resounding no.
Yesterday, in an interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos, President Obama answered Ronald Reagan’s question too:
Calling himself an “underdog,” President Obama today said the faltering economy is a drag on his presidency and seriously impairing his chances of winning again in 2012.
“Absolutely,” he said in response to a question from ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos about whether the odds were against him come November 2012, given the economy. “I’m used to being the underdog. But at the end of the day people are going to ask — who’s got a vision?”
The American people, he conceded, are “not better off” than they were four years ago.
“The unemployment rate is way too high,” he said of the 9 percent jobless rate, the highest in more than half a century.
Here’s the video of the interview:
Realistically, of course, there’s really no way the President could answer the question any other way. While some economic statistics may say that we’re in better shape, nominally, than we were when he took office during the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the public perception of the state of the economy is decidedly negative. The most personal measure economic health, the unemployment rate, remains stubbornly high and is likely to stay so long after the voters are tallied on Election Day 2012. And poll after poll has shown the public to be incredibly pessimistic about the state of the economy and, the direction of the country:
The good news for Obama is that things seem so bad now, that even a slight improvement over the next twelve months could inure to his benefit. Much of that is beyond his control. Even if his jobs plan were to pass Congress in full today, which isn’t going to happen, it’s impact on the economy isn’t likely to be large enough over such a short period of time to make a significant difference. Most importantly, though, America’s immediate economic future doesn’t necessarily lie in American hands. The ongoing Eurozone Crisis, which is far from resolved, could yet result in a financial crisis not unlike what the world experienced in 2008. While the economic impact in the U.S. of such an event isn’t expected to be as severe as it would be in Europe, it would still likely push us into another recession — which we may be headed for anyway — which makes any hope of recovery before the election completely pointless.
A year from now, people will be asking themselves Reagan’s question once again. If the answer they give is the same one the President gave yesterday, then he is going to have a problem regardless of how much the Democrats try to demonize the eventual Republican nominee.