Obama on top form again

2011-09-10 14:57

After a year of embracing austerity economics, Barack Obama belatedly tried to change the conversation with his big jobs speech last week.

The introduction of the American Jobs Act was both a policy and rhetorical shift toward a more aggressive, feistier Obama – one who is not afraid to run against the do-nothing Congress, take his case directly to the American people and ruffle a few feathers.

It’s the Obama, quite frankly, that many of his supporters have been waiting quite some time to see. That’s not to say everything about the speech or his plan was perfect.

Is the $450 billion legislation big enough to spur a true economic recovery? Probably not. Will his to-be-determined deficit speech undermine the momentum from his jobs speech?

Perhaps. But for now, Obama’s speech was an important first step in changing the conversation and defining the debate on his own terms.

I particularly liked the section where he invoked Abraham Lincoln to argue for the essential role of government in America.

He said: “We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our union. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future. Ask yourselves where we would be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways, bridges, dams and airports.

“What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, research universities or community colleges? How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the internet and the computer chip?

“No single individual built America on their own. We built it together. We have been, and always will be, one nation . . . Members of Congress, it is time for us to meet our responsibilities.”

Obama returned to the theme of shared sacrifice, saying: “What we can’t do – what I won’t do – is let this economic crisis be used as an excuse to wipe out the basic protections that Americans have counted on for decades. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.”

If the choice next November is between Obama in this speech vs Republicans in Congress or the GOP hopefuls debating last week, Obama will win.

© The Nation

» Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation and author of Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics 

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