October 24, 2012
The Barack Obama reelection campaign began its operation on April 4th, 2011, nineteen months before voters decide to send him back for a second term or send him back to Chicago. In the 570 days between that day and now, Obama and the DNC have raised and spent several hundred million dollars. Obama passed his 100th fundraising event months ago.
In that time, Republicans held more than 20 debates, primaries or caucuses in all 50 states as well as in American territories. Both parties held their national conventions. The two campaigns fought in four national debates, finishing on Day 567 of the Obama campaign.
Finally, on Day 568, Barack Obama got around to telling us what he plans to do with a second term in office.
This may sound like a joke, but it’s not – at least not intentionally a joke. Team Obama had never laid out a second-term agenda during the campaign, other than vague references to programs they had promised for the first term but had never bothered to address: comprehensive immigration reform as well as a continuance of preferred initiatives already begun in the last four years, such as expanded education funding.
Instead, Obama and his team have worked tirelessly for the first 566 days of their campaign to delegitimize their opposition. While Republicans mulled their choice of nominee, Team Obama attacked all of them as George Bush retreads and/or extremists. After Mitt Romney wrapped up the nomination in late April of this year around Day 385 of their campaign, Obama and his team spent all summer painting Romney as a vampire capitalist and a potential felon rather than offering their own vision for the future to voters.
Rumors swirled on the last day of the Democratic convention -- Day 521 -- that Obama might roll out a formal agenda for a second term in his speech. Campaign communications chair David Axelrod and deputy chair Stephanie Cutter both told the media that Obama would at least propose entitlement reform in his acceptance speech. Not only did Obama barely even mention the topic, the campaign never followed through with a proposal for release.
On Day 548, the presidential debate series began in Denver, Colorado. Instead of offering a plan of his own, Obama tried attacking the 60-page plan Romney had rolled out months earlier during the Republican primaries. He did the same at the second debate on Day 561 at the townhall debate at Hofstra University in New York.
By this time, the media had begun to wonder when Obama would bother to make a case for himself, as the delegitimization strategy had clearly backfired in Denver. After the Hofstra debate failed to dent Romney’s momentum, Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin warned that Obama’s failure to provide a second-term agenda could prove fatal to his reelection hopes. “If there’s an undercurrent here that could really hurt him,” Halperin told Joe Scarborough, it’s that “he didn’t lay out a second term agenda.”
Even after that debate, Obama talked about binders and Big Bird rather than offering his own plan, sticking to the delegitimization strategy. In the final debate on Day 567 in Boca Raton, Florida, Obama tried again to keep the focus on Romney’s foreign-policy agenda rather than his own, offering snide remarks about “horses and bayonets” in order to belittle Romney and make his ideas seem irrelevant.
How well did that work? The very next morning – Day 568 of the campaign, with only 14 days left to go before the election – Obama finally released a 20-page pamphlet purporting to outline a second term agenda, filled mainly with pictures and a collection of campaign sound bites. Most of the document sounds and looks familiar, because they offer what Obama promised in a first term:
• Promising to reform the corporate tax code while closing “loopholes” and stop companies from shipping jobs overseas while rewarding them for bringing jobs to the US
• More worker training
• Investing in wind, solar, nuclear, and clean coal while demanding higher gas mileage from vehicles
• Tax breaks for hiring workers
• Hiring another 100,000 teachers
• Continuing to roll out ObamaCare
Obama’s new proposal has two glossy pages (mostly dedicated to a picture of a senior citizen) on “Protecting Retirement Security,” which talks about Medicare and Social Security without ever mentioning the need to reform either, or the $100 trillion or more in unfunded liabilities in both programs. Even hisconvention speech went farther than this “agenda” does. “Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul,” Obama said on September 6th, “but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.”
The newly released 20-page pamphlet doesn’t mention the word “reform” once in this section. It does go on at length about what Obama won’t do to solve the problems of Medicare and Social Security (“Oppose efforts to gamble Social Security on the stock market,” “Stop proposals to turn Medicare into a voucher program”). These sound a lot like Obama in debates – attempting to talk about everyone else’s plans in order to distract attention from the fact that he has none of his own.
Small wonder, then, that no one found themselves terribly impressed with the product of 568 days of waiting. “There’s not anything significantly new in here,” CNN’s Jessica Yellin reported later Tuesday morning. “It’s all just compiled in a nice booklet now. You can still critique it,” Yellin continued, “for lacking details, such as – will he pursue immigration reform, what specifically would his tax reform plan look like?”
Don’t expect to find answers to any of the above. Obama’s plan offers the same tax reform promises of his 2008 campaign. On immigration reform – which Obama promised in 2008 to pursue in his first year as President – Obama’s agenda offers not even a single mention. Perhaps that’s why Obama refused to speak to the Des Moines Register editorial board on the record the next day (which he later reversed), but lined up interviews with hard-hitting news organizations like The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and MTV.
It took Barack Obama 568 days to offer next to nothing as a case for giving him a second term. It should take voters a lot less than 14 days to refuse it to him.