During his speech on the economy in Cleveland, OH today, President Barack Obama destroyed what House Minority Leader John Boehner’s empty economic plan. Obama said, “There were no new policies from Mr. Boehner. There were no new ideas.”
In his speech President Obama called out John Boehner by name, “That’s what’s happening right now. A few weeks ago, the Republican leader of the House came here to Cleveland and offered his party’s answer to our economic challenges. Now, it would be one thing if he admitted his party’s mistakes during the eight years they were in power, and was offering a credible new approach to solving our country’s problems.”
He continued, “But that’s not what happened. There were no new policies from Mr. Boehner. There were no new ideas. There was just the same philosophy we already tried for the last decade – the same philosophy that led to this mess in the first place: cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations. Instead of coming together like past generations did to build a better country for our children and grandchildren, their argument is that we should let insurance companies go back to denying care to folks who are sick, and let credit card companies go back to raising rates without any reason. Instead of setting our sights higher, they’re asking us to settle for a status quo of stagnant growth, eroding competitiveness, and a shrinking middle class.”
The President later laid out his vision, “I have a different vision for the future. I’ve never believed that government has all the answers to our problems. I’ve never believed that government’s role is to create jobs or prosperity. I believe it’s the drive and ingenuity of our entrepreneurs, the skill and dedication of our workers, that has made us the wealthiest nation on Earth. I believe it’s the private sector that must be the main engine of our recovery.”
President Obama called out Boehner and the Republicans for bashing the stimulus, but eagerly trying to take credit for it at home, “Mr. Boehner and the Republicans in Congress said no to these projects. Fought them tooth and nail. Though I should say that didn’t stop a lot of them from showing up at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and trying to take credit. That’s always a sight to see.”
Obama hammered the Republicans for putting electoral calculus ahead of the good of the country, “Look, I recognize that most of the Republicans in Congress have said no to just about every policy I’ve proposed since taking office. And on some issues, I realize it’s because there are genuine philosophical differences. But on issues like this one, the only reason they’re holding this up is politics, pure and simple. They’re making the same calculation they made just before the inauguration: if I fail, they win. Well, they might think this will get them where they need to go in November, but it won’t get our country where it needs to go in the long run.”
The President slammed Boehner’s lack of fiscal responsibility, “But let’s look at the facts. When these same Republicans – including Mr. Boehner – were in charge, the number of earmarks and pet projects went up, not down. These same Republicans turned a record surplus that Bill Clinton left into a record deficit. Just this year, these same Republicans voted against a bipartisan fiscal commission that they themselves proposed. And when you ask them what programs they’d actually cut, they usually don’t have an answer. That’s not fiscal responsibility. That’s not a serious plan to govern.”
The President closed with a message of hope and reclaiming the American Dream, “That’s who we are. That is our legacy. And I’m convinced that if we’re willing to summon those values today; if we’re willing again to choose hope over fear; to choose the future over the past; to come together once more around the great project of national renewal, then we will restore our economy; rebuild our middle-class; and reclaim the American Dream for the next generation.”
This is the Obama that many Democrats have been waiting to see. He not only took on his critics, but he also laid out his vision for rebuilding the economy. It is starting to look like Boehner and the Republicans did the President a huge favor with his economic address. This president thrives when he is campaigning and he flourishes when he has someone to run against. The White House has been given an opponent, and Obama is running with it.
The way that Democrats will survive the midterm elections is by doing exactly what Obama did today. Democrats must paint the economic contrast between what they are offering and the GOP’s back to the future plan. The recurring theme throughout this speech was the Republican willingness to place politics ahead of the national interest, which allows the White House to position Obama up as the visionary leader rising above the same old Washington politics. Obama once again proved his complete ownership and mastery over the Republican Party. What we saw today was an example of the power of a charismatic president and the bully pulpit. The GOP can’t match these two resources and the White House should deploy them often and frequently from now until November.