As is the case most weeks, Sunday's political news programs had a clear recurring theme - ducking the threshold question of this and every presidential election since Ronald Reagan so brilliantly raised it - "Are the American People better off today than they were four years ago?"
With Democrats gathering for their national convention in Charlotte, the talking head circuit was riddled with Obama surrogates and apologists. I guess that's fair. A week ago, the shows were booked solid with GOP'ers. Well, GOP'ers and weatherman, but I digress.
Yes, the best and brightest the Obama camp has to offer were on full display as the nation prepares for yet another week of convention programming.
- Former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel appeared on Meet the Press.
- Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley and Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter stopped by Face the Nation.
- White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe headlined This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
And each and every one of them was asked to answer the aforementioned threshold question...
"Are the American People better off today than they were four years ago?"
And each and every one of those poor befuddled libs ducked, dodged, and avoided the question as if it had been painted on the wall in Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
David Plouffe on This Week simply avoided the question altogether (three times) and acted like George Stephanopoulos was merely saying, "Mr. Plouffe, what would you like to talk about today?" When he did address the question (sort of), he resorted to blaming... you guessed it... President Bush.
Yes or No?
Attempt Number One:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he right, can the president argue unequivocally that Americans are better off today than they were four years ago.
PLOUFFE: Listen, George, I think the American people understand that we got into a terrible economic situation, a recession, only that the Great Depression -- the only thing the country has ever seen like it. So they know we had a deep hole. It took us a long time to get into that hole, it's going to take a long time to out of it.
Attempt Number Two:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes or no, are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?
PLOUFFE: Listen, George, they did a good job of reciting all the statistics that everyone is familiar with. I think everybody understands we were this close to a great depression we staved that off. We're beginning to recover. We have a lot more work to do. We need to grow jobs more quickly, we need to grow middle-class incomes more quickly.
Attempt Number Three:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, it sounds like, a year ago, the president told me, I don't think Americans are better off than they were four years ago. You still can't say yes?
PLOUFFE: Well, we clearly improved from the depths of the recession. We were losing 800,000 a month, we're now gaining them. The unemployment rate was around 10, it's come down. We're beginning to see a manufacturing sector emerge, one of the great, bright spots right now is we're adding manufacturing jobs. The American automotive industry was close to extinction. Mitt Romney would have let it go away, by the way. We wouldn't have an automotive industry if he was president. President Obama secured that. We are beginning to really make advances in alternative energy in things like batteries.
Governor Martin O'Malley on Face the Nation answered with a big fat NO; but then blamed President Bush:
"No, but that’s not the question of this election. Without a doubt, we are not as well off as we were before George Bush brought us the Bush jobs losses, the Bush recession, the Bush deficits, the series of desert wars charge for the first time to national credit cards."
Rahm Emanuel on Meet the Press stayed on talking points and defiantly exclaimed, "GM's alive well and bin Laden's not."
And then blamed President Bush;
"Dave, the first month he was sworn into office, he took a baton in which the economy was shrinking at the highest rates since the Great Depression - 800,000 Americans were losing their jobs."
Stephanie Cutter didn't waste any time. She just went right to blaming Obama's predecessor:
“In terms of the question are people better off than they were four years ago, I just want to remind you what was happening four years ago at this time. In the quarter before the president took office, we lost three million jobs; our country was bleeding; our financial system was on the verge of collapse; we were passing bank bailouts to ensure that our system could stay afloat. That’s what was happening before the president took office.”
For all the spin the Democrats are pushing that the Republican Convention lacked "big ideas" and "specifics"; I can't wait to hear what game-changing initiatives Dems will propose with this $16 trillion / 8+% question hanging unanswered.
A plan to blame President Bush until 2016?
I missed one from the original post...
Here's Senior Adviser David Axelrod's attempt at not answering the simple YES or NO question...
WALLACE: David, can you honestly say that the average American is better off today than they were four years ago?
AXELROD: Here's what I can say Chris. We're in a better position than we were four years ago in our economy in the sense that when this president took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. The quarter before he took office was the worst quarter this country's had economically since the Great Depression. And we are in a different place - 29 straight months of job growth; 4.5 million private sector jobs. Are we where we need to be? No...but what alternative is he (Romney) offering?
WALLACE: Just looking at the president's record and those statistics, is the average American better off than four years ago?
AXELROD: It took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009; and it's going to take some time to work through it...
WALLACE: Again, going back to the president's record, because he is the one seeking re-election. He famously said if I don't turn this thing around I'll be a one-term president. The economy has 300,000 fewer jobs net-net; 300,000 fewer jobs now than in February of 2009.
AXELROD: Every single month for the last 29 months, I've heard republicans give that talking point; and every month that number gets smaller and smaller because we've gained 4.5 million jobs in the last 29 months. You say, are people better off? I think those autoworkers whose industry would have collapsed if the president hadn't intervened are certainly better off. I think the millions and millions of young Americans who have health care today who wouldn't have had it if the president hadn't acted are better off. I think the millions and millions of people who have been able to renegotiate their mortgages so that they are paying lower interest rates are better off. So, there are plenty of people in our economy who have been impacted in a positive way by decisions the president has made, but we have a lot of work to do.