President Obama's Luxurious Schedule
On May 7, Geoffrey Norman posted "Today's Laugh Line" at National Review Online -- a quote from a column by Mark Halperin in Time asserting Mitt Romney has "the luxury of an open schedule" allowing him to "spend every waking hour as a full-time candidate," while President Obama "is required to do his day job."
It was even funnier if one looked at President Obama's May 7 schedule. Here was his schedule that day, in its entirety, with all events taking place in the Oval Office:
10:00 a.m. The President receives the Presidential Daily Briefing.
11:00 a.m. The President meets with senior advisors.
2:30 p.m. The President holds a conference call with elected officials and student government leaders from across the country to discuss the need to prevent rates from doubling on July 1.
Obama is fortunate he didn't serve as president during the Bush administration, when the Presidential Daily Briefing was generally given around 7 a.m. to a president who typically arrived at 6:45 a.m. to the Oval Office. According to the daily schedules posted on the White House website, President Obama's official day usually starts at 10 a.m. with his daily briefing.
Compare President Obama's May 7 schedule with President Bush's day on May 7, 2008: on that day he (1) issued an Executive Order on prohibitions of exports to Syria, (2) sent Congress an agreement with the Czech Republic, (3) signed bills designating various Post Office facilities in honor of U.S. soldiers, (4) signed the "Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008," (5) held a press conference urging Congress to "allow for the construction of refinery and for environmentally friendly domestic exploration" and give the Colombia free trade agreement an up-or-down vote, and (6) addressed the Council of the Americas, with a lengthy speech that in passing recounted his conversation the prior day with three Cuban dissidents, which exemplified his Freedom Agenda:
Video-conferencing is one of the great wonders of the 21st century, and to be able to sit in the White House and talk to these three brave souls in Havana was a inspiring moment for me ... It also reminded me of a couple of things: One, that there's an eternal truth when it comes to freedom, that there is an Almighty, and a gift of that Almighty to every man, woman and child, whether they be American, Cubano, or anywhere else, is freedom.
... The Cuban government recently announced a change at the top. Some in the world marveled that perhaps change is on its way. That's not how I view it. Until there's a change of ... how the Cuban government treats its people, there's no change at all. ... Cuba will not be a land of liberty so long as free expression is punished and free speech can take place only in hushed whispers and silent prayers. And Cuba will not become a place of prosperity just by easing restrictions on the sale of products that the average Cuban cannot afford.
Perhaps May 7, 2008 is not a fair comparison, since Bush was not running for re-election that year. Let's look at his schedule for May 7, 2004. On that day, he was campaigning in Wisconsin, making remarks to people in Lancaster about the improving economy:
We got some good news today. They added -- we added 288,000 new jobs last month. That's a good sign. (Applause.) Part of it has to do with making sure you get to keep more of your own money. That stimulus plan is working.
That afternoon he held a lengthy "Ask President Bush" event in Prairie Du Chien, and recounted how the country had overcome a lot:
This country, in a very brief period of time, overcame the stock market decline, starting in March of 2000 ... Starting in early 2001, we went through a recession ... And then, just as we were coming out of that recession, the enemy hit us. ... It affected our economy ... We overcame that.
... I'd like to take a little credit for the pro-growth that's happening today because of the tax cuts. See, I believe that when you give people more of their own money -- and notice I said, more of their own money -- it's not the government money we're passing back, it's the people's money we take in the first place ... when you've got more money in your pocket, you're likely to demand an additional good or a service. And when you demand an additional good or a service in our marketplace-type economy, somebody will produce it. And when somebody produces the good or a service, somebody is more likely to keep a job or find work. That's just the way it works.
The tax cuts were important economic policy...We've been counting the number of new promises the fellow I'm running against is making. He's up to $1.9 trillion so far ... So the question is, how is he going to pay for it? ... [H]is answer, of course, is taxing rich people. But the problem is there's not enough tax revenue to be generated to pay for $1.9 trillion worth of new spending by taxing rich people.
Eight years later, the Bush tax cuts -- a 10% across-the-board cut in tax rates for virtually every taxpayer, currently rebranded by President Obama as tax cuts for "millionaires and billionaires" -- will likely be a central issue in the campaign, as will President Obama's different kind of stimulus program that he initiated in 2009 along with his call for repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the M&Bs (which would raise only a relatively small amount of money, but would assertedly be "fair").
Which is the better stimulus program -- allowing people to keep more of their money to spend, save, or invest; or transferring more money to be spent, redistributed, or invested by the political class? Are taxes too low or government spending too high? Should taxes be raised, reformed, or reduced? These questions, which go to the heart of the role of government and its relationship to citizens, are likely to be at the heart of the coming political debate.
As he seeks to address these issues, President Obama's day job is not likely to interfere with his ability to campaign. On May 7, after receiving his daily briefing and meeting with his political and press people (aka "senior advisers"), he held what was effectively a campaign event -- right from the Oval Office. You can tell the conference call to the student government leaders was a political discussion, not a policy one, because the call was marked "closed to press" (reminiscent of the time he made a closed conference call to a thousand rabbis to urge them to push ObamaCare in their High Holiday sermons).
Call it the luxury of a day job with a closed schedule -- where you can campaign right from your desk, while your opponent is stuck with an open schedule.