This Speech Will Make The Difference

The New York Review of Books essay by Robert Johnson explains how Obama’s September 8th speech marks a turning point in national politics.

The speech itself was artful, passionate, and astute. President Obama acknowledged the current distrust of government very openly. Challenging Congress to do something that addressed job creation, he presented an economic vision to the American people that reflected an important role for government in reducing our 9 percent unemployment rate, while maintaining that this was not a plan to add to runaway debt. He declared his intention to ask the congressional super committee, created as part of the debt ceiling legislation in July, to reduce the deficit in future years by the same $447 billion that the President’s job legislation would require.

Johnson’s not delusional. He concedes the plan is only marginally stimulative and far too reliant on discredited Suppy-Side nonsense. But this is net judgment.

Yet it is the currency of votes that will matter in 2012. Obama’s speech was addressed to “the other 90 percent,” and is likely to help his reelection chances if he can convince voters to overcome their cynicism both about the efficiency of government action and about his own abilities. We can expect that the right-wing, generally pro-Republican media like Fox News will continue to disparage the capacity of government to create jobs and improve lives by repairing American infrastructure, as Sean Hannity and Frank Luntz did after the speech. Republicans will inevitably issue their own plans for job creation and these may diminish the impact of Obama’s speech.

Even so, Obama has done the country a service by trying to move the center of debate from austerity to employment and investment. If the President, as he visits towns and cities, is as clear and bold as he was before the joint session of Congress, I suspect that his speech might lead to the renewed national self-confidence that must be a crucial component of any economic recovery. If he is to convince voters that he is able to govern, he will have to rely much less on compromise and much more on public willingness to confront the Republicans, who have shown no serious willingness to collaborate with him. We can hope that with his back against the economic wall he will continue to find the capacity for boldness we glimpsed in his speech. If he does not, we have a great deal to fear.

Johnson should buck up. Maybe he’ll give another speech.


  1. sglover says


    They decide to fire her, secure in the knowledge the right wing will now respect them as much as the respected Vilsack for canning that black lady

    Yep. And best of all is that these geniuses say — and apparently actually believe — that “the mind is our medium”, when they dun the rubes for pledges.

  2. Comment says

    Setting: NPR Central Command Center

    – A bunch or turtlenecked ectomorphs hear of a new right wing meme circulating accusing a freelance NPR opera reported participating in a rally.

    They decide to fire her, secure in the knowledge the right wing will now respect them as much as the respected Vilsack for canning that black lady

  3. jwb says

    @sglover It’s NPR’s version of a defensive crouch. Of course the more they become yet another voice for corporate America (and they’ve been going down this path for a long time), the weaker their argument becomes for governmental (and listener-based) funding. I imagine this situation suits corporate America just fine.

    I remember Bill Safire, of all people, making that argument in the 1990s that NPR would be better off—better for its reputation, better for its reporting—being independent of governmental funding, and I’ve come to think that he was correct.

  4. sglover says

    I heard some National Piety Radio hack yammer about how wonderful the new honcho is going to be. The new Jefe sounds like the sort of biz-dweeb who takes mission & vision statements seriously. His own mission seems to be ensuring that the network becomes even **more** bland and sanctimonious than it already is. (Sanctimonious about Holy Commerce, natch).

    NPR is willingly going to make itself even more of a corporate propaganda organ. What a unique a valuable niche! It’s not often that you get to see an institution proudly, willingly march itself into oblivion.

  5. Sam Lowry says

    Didn’t catch Kurtz on CNN, but did find his piece for the Daily Beast where he talks about the supposed moderation of Fox “News” ( I take it one wouldn’t be crazy to be skeptical of such a claim from Ailes? Or from Kurtz? Certainly they are aware of the FoxNation website, the mother lode of wingnuttery. Which in and of itself refutes any assertion that Fox is moving towards sanity. (My favorite part about FN is that they have taken to consistently referring to Bill Maher as “Pig Maher”, even accusing him once of blasphemy. Which then begs the question of when did Maher become such a major player in the leftist Kenyan islamomarxist plot to shove gay atheist sharia law down our throats that Fox would spend so much time attacking him?)

  6. Dr Leo Strauss says

    Did anyone see Howie Kurtz make a big deal today on CNN that he interviewed Roger Ailes and that Fox is no longer ‘ultra right wing’ and moving to just ‘right wing’ because Ailes told him so? Can’t make this stuff up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


CommentLuv badge