The Kansas speech and his 60 Minutes interview should begin to thaw if not reignite the once white-hot enthusiasm Obama's base has had for him. If he continues to stay on message, forcefully addressing income inequality and positioning himself as the champion of the middle-class, he has a better than decent chance at reelection.
Let's also not forget that he's also tremendously aided by the alternatives which finally show him in relief not against a mythical, idealized opposition, but either a Corporate Raider Ken doll, or a nutty, horny Ebenezer Scrooge.
Unlike Romney and his dickish Fox interview, the president gracefully parried some pretty tough questions from 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft. And unlike Bush, he didn't point to economic indicators on paper and try to convince us that things are fine -- we just don't know it yet. Several times in the interview he acknowledged the near constant state of anxiety most Americans feel today about their future and the future for their children.
Still, what I haven't yet heard from the president is that he made any mistakes this first term whatsoever.
Not only will I vote for Obama but I know that his reelection, given the alternative, is crucial for the long-term prosperity and safety of this nation. That said, there is a defensiveness about this White House that might end up being its undoing. In answering question after question the president merely explained why the criticism was misguided. The most telling for me was his analogy about the captain of a ship:
I'm the captain and [my advisors are] the crew on a ship, going through really bad storms. And no matter how well we're steering the ship, if the boat's rocking back and forth and people are getting sick and...they're being buffeted by the winds and the rain and...at a certain point- if you're asking, "Are you enjoying the ride right now?" Folks are going to say, "No." And are they going to say, "Do you think the captain's good--doing a good job?" People are going say, "You know what? A good captain would have had us in some smooth waters and sunny skies, at this point." And I don't control the weather. What I can control are the policies we're putting in place to make a difference in people's lives.
Of course there is much truth to his analysis of the blame game but what he doesn't acknowledge is that there are many different paths through rough seas. Even if the stimulus was as big as could have been gotten politically, it is now settled economic history that it was too small. Why not acknowledge that? Was bailing out the banks with a blank check first and then asking them a year later for voluntary reforms the most effective course?
These are mistakes that were made and that should be addressed head on so that we can trust the White House to fight harder and smarter next time.
Look, it's a tricky balance. Obama had been so accommodating of the other side for so long, so tarred with the brush of weakness by Fox and their GOP, that an outright apology for anything could prove fatal to his campaign. On the other hand, with a large majority of Americans saying that Obama favors the interests of Wall Street and three-quarters of them saying the country is heading in the wrong direction, just promising us more of the same in the next term won't come close to cutting it.
What I would love to hear from the president; what I think would go a very long way to reigniting not only the base but wary independents, is something like the following:
I didn't think I was naïve when I first came to Washington. Heck, I'm from Chicago, and the politics there are as bareknuckled as they get. But what I've learned these past three years has really opened my eyes. When we Americans bailed out the financial system, pulling the nation and with it the whole world back from the brink of a second Great Depression, it seemed hard to believe that Wall Street would think it could go right back to business as usual. Yes, they paid us back -- and with interest -- but if we just pulled you off a cliff why are you right back up there playing on the edge? So we learned, and a year later pushed for and got passed the most far-reaching financial reform in decades and if I'm lucky enough to have a second term and a Congress willing to fight with me to restore and protect our middle class, we will pass even more comprehensive financial reforms that will bring more balance and safety to our markets.
Three years later I'm still an outsider to D.C. politics and proud of it. I don't like so much of what I've seen and with your help electing me and a more like-minded Congress determined to bring sanity and civility back to Washington, we can fix this thing, and restore America to what she has been at her best.