“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
– Lewis Carroll
Let it be known that on 9/8/11 at 7:10 p.m. in a joint session of congress on Capitol Hill, the 2012 Presidential election campaign of Barack Hussein Obama began in earnest. The 44th president of the United States channeled the lofty rhetoric and grumpy spirit of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman respectively for what would be his final attempt to salvage a modicum of victory from a damaged economy he inherited and has failed to reverse. And don’t think it wasn’t more than a coincidence the address was given mere minutes before the National Football League’s official season’s kick-off.
Kick off indeed.
In fact, Obama’s American Jobs Act, a multi-layered and strangely bipartisan $450 billion government goosing of a dragging economy, is quite simply Joe Cool’s Hail Mary pass. It is a last minute heave to the end zone, a last gasp before the President has to defend his economy and then his job in the coming year.
When Obama entered the Capitol chamber, unlike his march in the first months of ’09, he did not possess the congress (to which he wrongly abdicated power for his first stimulus package) nor was riding a Caesar-like 72 percent approval rating (plummeting to a new low of 44 percent by that morning), and most importantly, he is now straddled with an already tepid government-goosing mach one that by most counts kept the economic sinkhole from widening but hardly lowered the unemployment rate to promised levels (in fact it has risen exponentially since).
What commenced is what history will record as Barack Obama’s Big Jobs pitch, a rousing ding-dong wood shedding—this President’s finest in more than a calendar year and by far the most passionate a mostly dispassionate leader has given since taking office. Possessing his penchant for populist singsong and slapping a new coat of paint on old “prop ‘em up, boys” Keynesian structure, it both cracked the whip toward congress and rallied a lethargic voting base. Thus, it was first and foremost a political call to arms, but had enough wonk to fulfill his biggest failure as President; to marry soaring rhetoric about the buoyancy of America ala Ronald Reagan with an actual line-by-line plan.
As fired up as a former President of the Harvard Law Review can get, Obama pulled out some of the off-the-cuff derision he displayed before the final meetings with the Speaker of the House went all to hell in the debt ceiling talks, going as far as turning his angst on the press and even the malaise of the country to the plight his Presidency finds itself in. The key line in the rollout was “You must pass this bill now!”—hardly an exercise in reservation and clearly an audition as the reasonable voice still missing for the independent voter.
And that is the nut this time; and not that it is a last ditch effort for Barack Obama to save his neck, put a massive bandage on the gaping wound that is this hemorrhaging nation’s fallacy of its once purported economic might, or even that many of his Republican rivals at the helm actually refused to rate the proposed plan as anything approaching DOA. Nope. The nut is in the fact that Joe Cool is at his most compelling when his back is firmly planted on the wall.
To borrow another football analogy, Obama is a fourth quarter QB, looking rather pedestrian for an entire game, only to pull out all the stops, striking a scrambling improvisational John Elway figure for the crucial waning minutes. He did so in Iowa against the Clinton Machine in 2008, then again after the Sarah Palin factor put the pressure on that fateful autumn, and still again, when the events of this past summer seemed to sink into the sadly comical.
This does not change the bare facts that this President has been here before—three or four agonizing times with this horrid economy and once with what is still being debated by Washington’s most learned legal minds as a confusing unconstitutional mess of a health care law, and each time the stakes were raised. Not to mention his repeatedly wearisome retreading of class warfare brimstone and this doomed idea of getting any Republican to vote for taxing the rich to bail his legacy out.
Another inconvenient truth is that much of what is cobbled into the American Jobs Act is old school, been-there-done-that stuff. At times one could conjure recent memories of the last President unabashedly asking the American people to support troop surges and new strategies in Iraq; a stumble-bum war and its fractured plan that seemed more surreal with each passing month.
The details of Obama’s desperate salvo, to be unveiled in two weeks, will no doubt appear eerily redundant to the point of inertia. But believing in self-manufactured myths is what frames Presidents, in victory and defeat, and this one still has a pulse, albeit a faint one, politically, as does the entirety of congress, mostly made up of Obama’s opponents and all with the lowest approval ratings of any American politicians not named Herbert Hoover.
Right now Joe Cool can afford to be bold. He has no official challenger for his gig, and judging from the eight-headed fiasco a small portion of the nation endured the night before in the second of an interminable five early-staged Republican debates, that time is a long way off. And so the president runs against congress and the idea that it’s go-time or they too must face the electorate. His position will not be the only one in question come November of 2012.
The American Jobs Act is no New Deal or Great Society; it’s not even Morning in America. Still, it is a measure—big government trying to extend the teat for a few more months of misery—but a measure nonetheless. The President, at the end of every day, is a politician, and so are his opponents, and they all work for the government. And every day they give speeches and appear on talk shows and talk about jobs being the number one priority, whether they think it has anything to do with what they can effect or not.
And so… Hail Mary!
On the eighth day of the year’s ninth month, Joe Cool rolled back and let it fly.
Let’s see where it comes down.
James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of Deep Tank Jersey, Fear No Art, Trailing Jesus and Midnight For Cinderella.