President Obama has accomplished so much during his tenure with so little gratitude from the American people, lamented the Monday panel for MSNBC's "Morning Joe." What is to blame? Poor marketing by the White House, the panelists answered.
"Where is the celebration over what has been done and accomplished in the face of all this anger and vitriol in Washington?" complained co-host Mika Brzezinski. "No credit. No credit at all for what he's accomplished," lamented "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl.
Like something from the novel Frankenstein, Stahl cast Obama's rescue of the economy as a doctor saving the life of a horrible burn victim. "He saves the guy's life – this is our economy...but the guy wakes up and he's got scars all over his face, and that's all he sees, that's all anybody sees," she described.
"And how – what's the doctor supposed to say? And that's what [Obama] is fighting, he's fighting an economy that just won't give him anything."
So after so much has been accomplished, why are the Democrats not campaigning on the Obama agenda?
"If you look around the country, the Democrats are running against the Obama policies, because they have not been sold in a popular way," Mitchell insisted.
Steven Pearlstein of the Washington Post chipped in that "it's gotten around that government is bad and government has failed," but ironically the administration has "all these examples of government having succeeded." The White House, he lamented, has "become captive of these polls."
So are there any positives for President Obama when his rescue of the economy has gone unnoticed? "Isn't that the test of a true leader?" Brzezinski asked Newsweek editor Jon Meacham. "Absolutely it is," he affirmed.
A transcript of the three segments, which aired on October 18 at 6:48 a.m., 7:03 a.m., and 7:12 a.m. EDT respectively, is as follows:
MSNBC MORNING JOE 10/18/10 6:48 a.m. EDT
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Time now for our must-read op-eds, and we're going to start with one from Rolling Stone, which just seems to me like a better approach going into the midterms, but maybe I'm naive. This is Tim Dickenson, "The Case for Obama." And he talks about what Obama has done, what he has been able to accomplish, and how it perhaps rivals most presidents since LBJ – passing health care, winding down a war, bringing 120,000 troops home, passing financial reform, and pulling us back from the brink. And then he says this:
Along the way, Obama delivered record tax cuts to the middle class, and slashed nearly $200 billion in corporate welfare – reinvesting that money to make college more accessible and Medicare more solvent. He single-handedly prevented the collapse of the Big Three automakers – saving more than one million jobs – and brought Big Tobacco, at last, under the yoke of federal regulation. Even in the face of Congressional intransigence on climate change, he has fought to constrain carbon pollution by executive fiat and to invest $200 billion in clean energy – an initiative bigger than John F. Kennedy's moonshot and one that's on track to double America's capacity to generate renewable energy by the end of Obama's first term.
(End Article Text)
BRZEZINSKI: Now Andrea Mitchell, I would think that's a good sell.
ANDREA MITCHELL: It's a good sell, except that every Democratic candidate in tough states are going exactly in the opposite direction. You can't find a Democrat who's bragging about health care. Look at the latest campaign ads in West Virginia, where Joe Manchin actually literally takes a rifle and shoots a hole through Cap-and-Trade. The Obama initiatives are incredibly unpopular in exactly the states they have to win.
BRZEZINSKI: But is that – isn't that the reason, Andrea, they're not perhaps bringing in big money at the last minute in the midterms? I mean, isn't that one of the reasons why the argument about these contributions seems so hollow?
MITCHELL: Well, one of the reasons is that the White House didn't find its voice early enough in this campaign, and now is left with just trying to find anything that is at least polling well for them, and this campaign secret donation issue seems to be polling well, at least to Democratic strategists, Democratic pollsters. That's what they're hearing from Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and that's why they're taking this tact.
But if you look around the country, the Democrats are running against the Obama policies, because they have not been sold in a popular way, and Steve Pearlstein was also earlier talking about the foreclosures. The problem they've got on foreclosures is that the worst states for foreclosures are states like Nevada and Florida, where they have very tough senate campaigns.
BRZEZINSKI: Look, the policies have been controversial, some of them have – you could poke holes in, you could shoot a rifle through them, however Andrea characterized it – but like the Big Three, could you argue that was successful? The Big Three automakers –
MIKE BARNICLE: Absolutely –
BRZEZINSKI: Where is the celebration over what has been done and accomplished in the face of all this anger and vitriol in Washington?
STEVEN PEARLSTEIN: It's not there. And for some reason, you know, it's gotten around that government is bad and government has failed, and they have all these examples of government having succeeded, and I agree with you – I don't understand why they can't do a more positive thing. It's because they have become captive of these polls. If you look at polls too much, you know, you all run the same race, okay. Because everyone can do the same polls, and everyone runs the same race. And this is what's happened. Rather than change the conversation – they had the ability to change the conversation and they didn't. They let the Republicans define the race, big government versus not, and they lost it, rather than defining it not in a negative way, about "We pulled us back from the Bush brink," but positively, "We're taking you somewhere that's a better place." Well what's the better place? It's hard to – we haven't seen that vision.
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MSNBC MORNING JOE 10/18/10 7:03 a.m. EDT
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Lesley Stahl, what do you think of the approach? You were taking notes during those polls, but even more so the polls of the President in Ohio yesterday, which positive, but hard right now, hard to hang on to. Fair?
LESLEY STAHL: Well you've got this economy, which is a tidal wave moving against him, so it's blowing in the wind. You know, you had this sense a couple of months ago that we were going to begin to recover, and then something went bad again. So when you have the double-dip, he-he's just – he's climbing, he's Sisyphus, you know, just climbing and climbing and falling back again. It reminded me of a doctor who has this horrible burn victim come into the hospital, and he saves the guy's life – this is our economy – saves the guy's life, but the guy wakes up and he's got scars all over his face, and that's all he sees, that's all anybody sees. The guy's living, but he looks awful. And how – what's the doctor supposed to say? And that's what he's fighting, he's fighting an economy that just won't give him anything.
BRZEZINSKI: But isn't that, Jon Meacham, a studier of presidents and from decades ago to now – isn't that the test of a true leader?
JON MEACHAM: Hm-hmm. Absolutely it is. In adversity – it'd be easy if this were all 1984, I mean – so is it '82? You know, Ronald Reagan couldn't get arrested in October of 1982, and lost a bunch of seats, and the economy was bad, and people thought he might be too old, and it was all going to be over, and guess what? He won 49 states. And I just think, I'm in the "too soon to tell" camp in the AP poll. I also think, I mean, 59 percent of people that voted for Obama, given everything that Lesley just enumerated, is not a bad number. It's really not. And I think that what Obama has often said, and I think this is exactly right, is that they're never as smart as we give them credit for when things are going well, and they're not as dumb as they are as when things are not going so well.
WILLIE GEIST: Lesley, you – not to jump all over your report that's coming out, but you hinted to us that you've been out talking to people, and you were a little bit taken aback by the state of the economy out there.
STAHL: Well, I – what I'm taken aback by is that noone is telling the public how desperate this country's economic condition really is, with out debt and deficit. And so all the rhetoric out there is skirting the main issue. Noone will talk about taxes. They are terrified. Somehow the religion, the anti-tax religion has gotten so bad that if you – if anybody says "We're just going to have to do this," I mean, it's as if, you know, you-you killed a baby or something. You-you-you – a hex is put on you. So noone is talking about our big issues, and I just read this morning in the New York Times that there is only one Republican running for Senate who says that climate change is caused by man. I mean, the sci – forget, forget reality. It's gone. It's scary, because we have monumental problems.
I mean, I interviewed someone, very smart, and I said, "You know, you sound as if you think we're about to become Greece," you know, the country that's run into bank – he said "We are Greece. We are Greece, and we don't know it."
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MSNBC MORNING JOE 10/18/10 7:12 a.m. EDT
MIKA BEZEZINSKI: And you know what, [Obama] has accomplished a lot. I would say at this point the better thing –
LESLEY STAHL: No credit. No credit at all for what he's accomplished.
BRZEZINSKI: Why? What's going on with the messaging?
STAHL: Because his ability to make the argument has gone for some reason. I don't understand, but he cannot get any traction on what he's accomplished. I think it is the economy, myself, but he can't make the argument and the Republicans continually beat up on him and win.
MIKE BARNICLE: It makes you wonder whether they were – and they were so skillful in campaign mode. Did they not stop and turn the page into governing mode? And I give you an example of why I wonder about this. The bank bailout program, proposed under President Bush and Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson. There has never been a government program that has been so profitable to the American taxpayer in such a short period of time as was the bank bailout program. They gave the banks a lot of money, the banks re-paid it within 14 months with tremendous interest, back to the government. They could have handcuffed themselves to Bush and Paulson and said "Look what we did as a country." Republican, Democrat. They never did it.