Obama's Speech: Epic failure
Administration flaks had been promoting the president's economics speech in the battleground state of Ohio for days as an event that would "reframe" the campaign and allow the president to emerge from several weeks of confused and fuzzy messaging.
Instead, what the public - and the political press - got was a 54 minute marathon of reworked talking points, rehashed attacks on Romney, and the same old, same old refrain of blaming Bush for his problems.
Prior to President Barack Obama's marathon 54 minute speech in Ohio today, the Obama campaign sent our several statements promising the speech would be a major address framing the campaign going forward. Despite the hype, the speech was mainly a rehash of themes and ideas from the president's recent stump speeches and his remarks were widely panned as overly long by the political press corps.
In the speech, President Obama outlined his view that this election is a choice between "two fundamentally different views of which direction America should take." He characterized Mitt Romney's vision as being the same as the "policies of the last decade," specifically deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy while he described his own "vision for America" as boiling down to five things: "Education. Energy. Innovation. Infrastructure. And a tax code focused on American job creation and balanced deficit reduction." President Obama also stressed that the economic crisis began during the Bush administration and that is "started growing again" after he took office and has since "continued to grow."
All of these points have already been featured in the president's other recent speeches. Between the pre-speech hype from the campaign, the lack of new material and the overall length of the speech reporters were clearly dissatisfied with end result.
The length of the speech is astonishing. Only a politician who is in love with the sound of his own voice could believe that people would sit still and listen to anybody spout off for 54 minutes.
How bad was the speech? Even the lapdogs at MSNBC were unhappy:
"I thought this, honestly, was one of the least successful speeches I've seen Barack Obama give in several years," said Newsweek editor Jonathan Alter. "It was long winded. He had a good argument to make, and at the beginning of the speech he seemed to be making it in a fairly compelling way but then he lost the thread."
Alter said he thought the speech was "way too long" and Obama had "lost the audience by the end."
Daily Beast columnist and economist Zachary Karabell agreed with Alter, saying that the President opened the speech well, but quickly lost the plot.
When he went, sort of, away from offense and on to defense, 'what we've done and what we're going to do,' it became unbelievably diffuse and, in some sense purely as a political phenomenon it was very ineffective in that respect because it very well characterized the opponents as 'this is not going to work' but it didn't really give you the sense of what will.
Tom Lifson thinks that the president is engaging in magical thinking: "He really must think that his voice has magic in it, that it can persuade people, because he said nothing new." Lifson pointed to Obama's belief that he could charm the Russians and Muslims as proof of his "magical thinking."
Tom believes that part of Obama's problem is that, as an articulate black man, nobody has ever challenged him. He actually thought that a 54 minute speech would mesmerize the audience and have the press fawning over his rhetorical gifts. Instead, he has the absolute worst reaction possible; no one is reporting what he said and the press is reporting how bad the speech was.
Most presidents have written about the danger of "cocooning" in the White House, given that the flow of information comes from staffers not really enamored of giving a president bad news. It is not unusual for staffers to brief the president on what they think he wants to hear rather than the reality outside of the Oval Office.
It is apparent that Obama has a staff of sycophants and yes-men who have not gotten through to the president that his re-election effort is in deep, deep trouble and the same themes and narratives he's been using these last months simply aren't working. If they had been able to get through to him, it is doubtful he would have made such a huge deal out of this epic failure of a speech that went on too long and was bereft of new ideas.