September 8, 2011

Obama Jobs Plan - What If Scenario #4 - the scary one

No guts, no glory?
What's on the news horizon for today? Well, it's the start of the NFL season, and Peyton Manning might miss it.  Oh, and there's some sort of jobs speech going on tonight as well.  For what it's worth, there's one scenario left to consider with respect to President Obama's speech.  As previously mentioned the president could go with big conservative ideas, or big with liberal ideas or go small and hope it comes off as big.  He could also go with big liberal and big conservative ideas.  He could go all in.

That seems like an unrealistic gambit for this president but given the press leaks about this speech being a small portion of a grander scheme, it could be a classic misdirection play.  Catching the GOP off guard would be quite the coup for the White House.  It makes the joint session setting seem more reasonable since it's supposed to be for big deals.  It also would make John Boehner's decision to not provide an official GOP response, thereby belittling the smallness of the proposal, a complete backfire.  The GOP would be caught completely flat footed unaware.  It would be a misdirection on the scale of the Normandy invasion in WWII. Further it would make the GOP seem petty by refusing to provide an official response to what turned out to be a big deal.  The president may not know how to govern, but he does know politics and it would be a brilliant tactical move.

Additionally, it's a throwback to the Obama of 2008.  Not in terms of his agenda, but in terms of trying to be all things to all people.  Big conservative and big liberal proposals combined means people will hear the parts they love even though they hear parts they will undoubtedly not like.  But it also plays to the message that he's the big compromiser and the only adult in the room.  He's the one putting country ahead of ideology.  And the irony is he doesn't even need to do that.  He could follow the 1982 TEFRA deception of Reagan plan and not do anything on the conservative side, as Lee Edwards notes:
Baker assured his boss that Congress would approve three dollars in spending cuts for every dollar of tax increase. To Reagan, TEFRA looked like a pretty good "70 percent" deal. But Congress wound up cutting less than twenty-seven cents for every new tax dollar. What had seemed to be an acceptable 70-30 compromise turned out to be a 30-70 surrender. Ed Meese described TEFRA as "the greatest domestic error of the Reagan administration," although it did leave untouched the individual tax rate reductions approved the previous year.
If I were on team Obama and this was the secret plan, I'd be smiling a big inner smile today.  I don't think anyone is expecting a speech that shifts the paradigm.  Most think Obama's not capable of it.  Is an Obama really-big-deal possible?  Very much so.  With his approval ratings tanking a big gamble seems much more appealing than if his job approval were at 55%.  It's not.  It's closer to 40%.  

What does the GOP do now?

If I were a blogger with hundreds of thousands of followers I'd really have to consider when to publish this post.  After all, if the president's team hasn't considered this idea, I wouldn't want to hand it to them.  But I'm not a big fish and it won't get very much notice.  Additionally, the president's team probably have considered this idea already.  Of course that means coming up with some big conservative ideas.  Inside their bubble that may not be possible.

So it's okay to discuss the idea now because the response will become the important thing.  There are a few things that should work in the GOP's favor.  There is a season opening NFL game right after the speech.  There is the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that will also be a major focus on the news cycle this weekend (although if Obama successfully tries to co-opt the anniversary for a 'we got Bin Laden' message, that may constitute a powerful 1-2 punch) .  The speech, even if it is a big deal, will not own the entire news cycle over the next four or five days.  It's important for the GOP to ensure that the news cycle stays full of other issues.  Managing the news cycle is a Democrat method that the GOP needs to employ.  There are ways of doing that, and distraction is one of them.

Michele Bachmann scheduled what looks like a response press conference after the president's address.  That may be good for her politically if the speech is a dud.  But if it's not then she lends credence to the supposed boldness of the speech.  In that case it would be better for her to make a major political announcement about her campaign.

Other examples of things that might shatter the weekly news cycle entirely are the following;

  • Palin, Christie or Giuliani announce an entry into the GOP primary race
  • An existing GOP candidate drops out and endorses someone else in the race
  • Other GOP contenders besides Romney roll out their economic platforms
  • Palin, Christie or Giuliani announce an endorsement of an existing candidate
This doesn't need to be a 30 day misdirection.  It just needs to deflate the power of a big message and give the GOP enough time to find the inevitable flaws int he Obama plan.  Inevitable? For sure - big government is bad because big, expansive behemoths are inherently flawed somewhere.  So too are big expansive plans.

For no other reason than to detract attention from a big but bad Obama plan that the press should run with, Palin should announce a run (or Christie - Giuliani may not be as big of a deal).  Win or lose doesn't matter at that point.  A candidacy even if it were doomed to failure would truly be taking one for the team.

There will be the opportunity to point out that spending cuts just don't materialize the way tax increases do. There will be opportunity to point out the problems with the big liberal agenda items and perhaps the redundancy of Obama's previous attempts at them.  There will be time to point out the big conservative items are neither so big, nor so conservative as the president believes.  There will be the opportunity to point out the 98-0 senate no thank you to the president's last budget for a reason.  The trick is to not let the president's plan to gain legs with the media.

That's how you bypass the media - keep the news cycle moving so quickly that they don't have time to editorialize on anything in depth. Keep them moving onto the next thing and a week out the big news story is yesterday's news and not so big a deal.

With all that said, is the Obama speech going to be big liberal/big conservative?  Probably not, I don't think he's got the audacity.  Enjoy the game.

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