|Victor Davis Hanson|
He should offer — and soon — his own Contract with America.
About half the country disapproves of the job the president is doing. Most Americans think he has not handled the economy well. Yet a majority also believe that the tough times are still George W. Bush’s legacy, and, further, that Mitt Romney would not necessarily do any better a job than has Obama. In brilliant fashion, Obama has convinced the American people that he took office on or about September 20, 2008, right in the midst of a national panic, which he alone calmed. You would never know that Inauguration Day was four months later, when most of the life-saving remedies were already in place and had been working for 16 weeks. This ploy is analogous to Obama’s both trashing and claiming credit for his inheritance of the Bush national-security protocols and near quiet in Iraq.
Republicans keep pointing to Obama’s weak approval ratings, as if November were a yes/no vote on his performance. But that is not quite the case, as we see from the unpopular Obama’s slight lead over Romney in head-to-head polls. Romney’s problem for now is twofold: One, Americans want to vote out Obama, but are not convinced yet that Romney has any better plans; and, two, they still buy into the idea that George Bush — not corruption in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with Washington-insider collusion with Wall Street speculators — caused the September 2008 meltdown. Obama blames everything from the Japanese tsunami to ATM machines for his dismal economic performance, but the public does not so much disagree as wish he would just stick to the old canard “Bush did it.”
Note that April, May, and June of this year were the worst months of the Obama presidency so far: the Wisconsin repudiation of blue-state unionism; the problems in fundraising; the Eric Holder contempt charge; the GSA, Secret Service, and Fast and Furious scandals; Obama’s verbal gaffes, like saying the private sector is doing “fine”; the rebukes on Bain Capital from Cory Booker and Bill Clinton; the public putdowns from Vladimir Putin — and always the bad job news, and more sluggish growth. Incumbent presidents, after all, usually are not reelected after presiding over 41 months of 8 percent–plus unemployment and four serial $1 trillion–plus budget deficits.
Yet again, Obama has either stayed about the same in the polls or has inched slightly ahead of Romney. If these were especially bad months, what would good news bring Obama?
All sorts of explanations abound for the paradox, and many of them are in part convincing. The most telling, perhaps, is that Romney has not adequately countered Obama’s caricature of him as an out-of-touch rich guy with John Kerry–like tastes for plutocratic playthings, who outsourced jobs and stashed his millions in Swiss bank accounts. It is not enough to scoff that the prep-schooled Obama, who has set a presidential record for time out on the golf links, is hardly a populist working man. Instead, Romney has to demonstrate why his undeniably successful business experience is an asset, not a liability, in a moribund economy.