During the presidential campaign, John McCain stupidly announced that "the fundamentals of the economy are still strong," a statement that Barack Obama hung around his neck like a flaming car tire. Today, Obama hailed the economy's "core strengths." Whoops.
The clip above is of Obama on the campaign trail nailing McCain for economic Pollyannaism. Here, according to the AP, is what he has to say about the economy today:
President Barack Obama said Monday the nation's economy is in good shape for the long term thanks to "core strengths" such as its universities, its innovation and a dynamic workforce.
"There are core strengths to the American economy that will put us in good stead over the long term," Obama said. He said the key is bridging that gap toward a more prosperous time and promised the gathered reporters he won't let up "until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again."
You could make a case that McCain's "fundamentals" line is probably more responsible for Obama's victory than anything else either candidate said during the campaign. Candidate Obama's rhetorical response to McCain was, "Senator McCain, what economy are you talking about?" We're inclined to ask President Obama what "core strengths" he is talking about. The AP cites universities, innovation, and a dynamic work force—"fundamentals of the economy" that existed back when Obama was pillorying McCain for his misstep last year. In fact, the workforce considerably larger then. Today we're at 10.2 percent unemployment.
For Obama to utter a similarly thoughtless remark at a time when more people are out of work, and when the economy—as a function of how it's actually experienced by human beings, as opposed to a grab-bag of statistical indicators—is arguably worse than it was a year ago doesn't speak well for his ability to inspire confidence in the recovery. We'd be shocked if the Republicans, who have lately found traction in hitting Obama on the lack of job creation, don't attack him over the "core strengths" line with the same vigor that he directed at McCain for the "fundamentals" line. He deserves it. We just hope it doesn't resonate as strongly as it did last year.
Granted, McCain was clueless enough to make his comment on the day that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, and the fact that he could offer sunny, optimistic language in the midst of a financial panic that threatened to derail the global financial system spoke volumes about his comprehension of the problem. Obama is speaking at the beginning of an anemic recovery, when it makes sense for the president to adopt a boosterish stance. But Obama ought to know better than anyone exactly how disconsonant such happy-talk can sound when people are actually suffering, and living off food pantries, because they can't get jobs.