His first debate with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney served as an excellent illustration. There was Romney the business tycoon closing the deal with a mixture of fact, fiction and unwavering confidence. By comparison, Obama struggled to find the words to defend his administration.
The president did far better in his second go-round, aggressively challenging Romney. Yet, more work remains for Obama. He needs salesmanship to win a second term, and if he hopes to get more done, he needs a better Congress.
Obama could start by offering a history lesson. He needs to describe the long view on the nation’s economic woes. For more than 30 years, a growing conservative movement has played a reckless game, loading up the nation’s credit card, as Obama’s vice president Joe Biden put it, with tax cuts for the wealthy, off-the-books wars and other goodies.
The Great Recession of 2008 was the awful result of those 30 years of lower regulation over the financial sector and reckless draining of the federal treasury. It built up over Democratic and Republican administrations until Obama was left to clean up the mess.
Don’t ask for sympathy, Mr. President. However, do demonstrate your administration’s success in putting the economy on a slow path to recovery. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to mention how your rival party has gone to drastic steps to refuse to compromise. The economy is on the slow road to recovery in spite of congressional Republicans dragging their feet on the jobs bill, on health-care reform, on deficit reduction.
The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, has said the top job of congressional Republicans is to make Obama a one-term president. If Obama hopes to have more success in a second term, he needs members of Congress willing to look beyond the job of the man in the Oval Office to the jobs of millions of Americans.
We’re still waiting on more details on what a second Obama term would look like. He should give us something bold. Sell Americans a vision of a nation that works together to combat global climate change, fosters democracies across the Middle East and creates good jobs for a new economy.
Bill Clinton and Al Gore won re-election in 1996 on the promise of building a bridge to the 21st century. In 2012, Obama would be wise to present a path for the next four years and beyond.