President Obama preempted … Jeopardy!? Seinfeld syndicated reruns? … to deliver his “American Jobs Act” speech, careful to avoid both Big Brother and the Packers-versus-Saints game. The president offered a combination of oratory and policy proposals that were driven home by one oft-repeated phrase: “You should pass this jobs plan right away.”
Obama tried to align himself with public sentiment: “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.”
He insisted this was “not class warfare,” while saying that “we need a tax code where everyone gets a fair shake” and “everyone pays their fair share” – code for Of course I mean the upper class needs to pay more. (By the way, at the exact moment the president was uttering those last two phrases, my ABC affiliate went to a commercial – did yours? Was this some playful Eric Cantor prank?)
By the end, Obama’s promises were turning the corner toward threat: “I intend to take that message to every corner of this country.” Threat, that is, to his Republican opponents, particularly the group of people who debated one another the night before on MSNBC. Because this speech sounded as much like a campaign stump rouser as it did a plan for the immediate economic future.
The immediate reaction to the president’s speech was muted by two other breaking-news stories: the report of a “credible threat” of possible car bombings being planned for New York City and/or Washington, D.C., and the news of massive power outages on the West Coast.
Which may be just as well for the president, since both sides of the cable spectrum seemed dubious about his content. On Fox News, Bill O’Reilly called the speech “pretty much a charade” and said, “Republicans are never gonna vote to increase taxes on the affluent.” O’Reilly chided the president: “He says pass it now, pass it now, and I’ll tell you in two weeks how I’m gonna pay for it. What?” On Current TV, Keith Olbermann’s guest, economist Jeff Madrick, pretty much agreed with O’Reilly, saying that Obama “didn’t explain how” he was going to accomplish his goals: “He hasn’t given us any details.”
And on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart acknowledged up front that the speech was being made after he taped his show, and since he doesn’t air a new edition on Fridays, he’d deal with the Obama plan “on Monday, when you don’t give a s— anymore.”
It’s a tough media world out there; the president just lives in it.