Here is a sequence of events: Mitt repeatedly lied but was energetic. Obama was laid back and allowed Mitt to gain stature. The right-wing blogosphere applauded. The progressive pundits exploded. With everyone "agreed" on a one-sided verdict, Romney could sprint down the sidelines with blockers in front of him. And, with all of that, the movement in the polls was a percent or two.
Continuing the sequence of events: unemployment dropped to 7.8 percent. The right-wing blogosphere became as apoplectic as the progressive pundits had been over the debate. To put a cork in the bottle, they concocted conspiracy theories that the numbers were "cooked", trotting out former GE CEO Jack Welch who decided to discard whatever shreds of integrity he still had.
But, the backlash was too pointed and precise. They had attacked the integrity of an apolitical organization that handles statistics. Statisticians' entire lives are spent removing or calculating bias. A few people, like Jared Bernstein, who actually know what they are talking about (not a requirement to be a pundit, but nice if one has it), demolished it.
Within a day, the "unemploymenters" were done. But, they needn't have bothered in the first place.
7.8 percent should have halted whatever momentum Romney had from the debate, and turned it right around. This is a campaign about jobs, isn't it? Moreover, the right-wing's freak-out should have been a clear signal that this was indeed something big and game-changing.
So, what did the progressive pundits say? They went, "hmm, looks promising, but here are all the other things that need to happen." They had an open-field and decided to run out-of-bounds to stop the clock. Instead of taking a page from the right-wing's applause for Romney -- despite his denying he supported everything they valued except for killing Big Bird -- the progressive pundits felt compelled to point out their concerns. Intellectually, very commendable; but, ill-timed if they really want to be effective.
Want to know what the unemployment rate was when President Reagan ran his 1984 "morning again in America" campaign ads? 7.4 percent. That's it. That was sufficient to be happy, aglow with optimism, to declare that his policies were working and to make people wary about changing horses in the middle of a stream of ongoing recovery.
But, can we cheer 7.8 percent? Can we say that it is "sunrise in America again", assuming that an additional 0.4 percent is the prerequisite to make it "morning"?
Of course not. First, the right-wing would have dismissed it if it were 4 percent because President Obama was associated with it. Those are the very same people who were cheering 7.4 percent in 1984.
But, not to be outdone, op-ed writers, bloggers, pundits, academics and others who usually see the world from a more Democratic perspective, cannot resist talking about how much more needs to be done, and lots that should have been done to have made it even better. One can agree with those sentiments, however, without reflexively indulging them.
Instead, can we also not point out that the unemployment rate would, even with reasonable compromise by Republicans who actually cared about the American people, be at 6.8 percent?
Psychologically, it is bad management practice. For the last few months at least, we are running a campaign, and everyone needs to assess the role they can play. The stakes are just too high to do otherwise.
Especially in a long haul, management 101 teaches the importance of celebrating interim successes when they occur. One can take out a moment in time to celebrate, it does not diminish the challenges ahead. One does not, in the midst of celebration, remind one's self of the difficulties. Just celebrate.
And, in op-ed/blogger/pundit/academia-land, the Republicans made certain much earlier this year that nothing is going to get done to improve the outcomes prior to the election, so reminding each other what we have not done, or could have done better is not timely.
And, that is really the point. It reminds me of a (true story) wedding I attended in which the mother of the bride spent most of her "speech" stating how happy she was that her daughter did not make the same mistake she had when she married her ex-husband (who, by the way, is a wonderful fellow), and complaining that the groom had not asked her if he could marry her daughter. At her only daughter's wedding!!
Indeed, if Reagan could shout about 7.4 percent, President Obama should be handed a megaphone for 7.8 percent. Why?
Reagan's recession was comparatively simple to resolve because it did not have many "moving parts". It had been deliberately inflicted by the Federal Reserve raising interest rates to tame inflation. Lower those interest rates, engage in deficit spending, invest more in the military--and presto(!), unemployment begins to recede. (Remember, military spending is the only government spending that one is allowed to say creates jobs). Nonetheless, the recession Reagan presided over caused unemployment to go to 10.8 percent.
Compare President Obama's challenges. With interest rates already effectively zero so there was no handle to turn, he was handed the mess the Bush administration helped to create: a worldwide collapse of the financial markets, a collapse of the housing market, an auto industry about to go bankrupt, GDP had nose-dived by 8.9 percent in the quarter before President Obama assumed office, and we were losing 800,000 jobs/month... and what is the unemployment rate now? A mere 0.4 percent higher than it was under Reagan, and it never exceeded 10 percent.
President Obama has been the subject of continuous, vile, disgusting attacks from the right-wing. Having passed the Heritage Foundation's health care plan, he is labeled a socialist. The racial innuendos make one vomit. The disdain with which those who have been handed their world on a silver platter have for this example of the American dream is about as anti-American as it gets.
With dignity and perseverance, President Obama has kept his focus, kept his cool, and kept steering the country toward a better day. I do not agree with everything he has done, and have not been shy at voicing my differences. I did that when I thought that, if somehow the sentiment expressed took hold, there might be some favorable impact.
But, when those exhortations and critiques become not only fruitless because of timing, but also quench enthusiasm and celebration for some real success that needs to be continued, they become self-defeating.
That quenched enthusiasm has prevented the excellent results from triggering a momentum shift back to the President, and thus may hand Romney the keys to the White House.
Whatever needs to be done will certainly not happen in a Romney-Ryan Administration. Everything they propose, everything, will make all of our lives worse. If you thought 1937 were a bad policy mistake by FDR (and it was), cutting spending and the deficit because he thought we had come out of the Depression, just wait until the "cut, cap and balance" pledge is enforced -- Romney signed it, and the next leader of the Senate, Jim DeMint (R-SC), will insist upon it.
Make no mistake: the right sees this as an opportunity to dismantle not only President Obama's progress, but virtually all of the policies and institutions of the Great Society and the New Deal, not because they "don't work" (indeed, they do, and that is what really bothers them), but because they are foreign to their ideology, and the priorities of their paymasters. The Koch boys and their fellow travelers have not invested hundreds of millions of dollars to buy some minor tinkering.
Let's celebrate interim successes, and learn how to do it without publicly dissing your ex-husband at your daughter's wedding, and complaining about what the groom did not do.
Then it will be the happy occasion it should be, and there will be time to make the marriage work better.