WASHINGTON -- Over the past two years, President Obama has blamed big banks, Wall Street, corporate executives, trade deals, tax cuts and deregulation for all the nation's ills, while presiding over $3.4 trillion in additional debt. Now, after two years of a sluggish economy and unemployment still hovering between 9 and 10 percent, he's talking like a born-again free trader, calling for a new approach to job creation (and possibly a lower corporate tax rate), announcing a mission to root out bad regulations, and a plan to put business executives in the White House.
Gone is the far-left, inflammatory anti-business, anti-Wall Street rhetoric and class warfare attacks on "millionaires and billionaires" and, really, anyone making more than $250,000 a year.
He has made William Daley, a J.P. Morgan bank executive, who championed the North American Free Trade Agreement under the Clinton administration, his chief of staff. He made one of Clinton's top economic advisers, Gene Sperling -- who backed a GOP-crafted capital gains tax cut that sent stocks soaring in the late '90s -- his top White House economic adviser. He brought in GE's chief executive Jeffery Immelt, a titan of industry, to advise him on how to get the economy growing again.
Is this for real? Or this a case of survival politics pushing aside long-held liberal principles to boost the start of his bid for a second term -- knowing full well that he's not going to win re-election if the jobless rate remains above 9 percent?
After two years of the biggest government expansion in decades, the suddenness of Obama's flip-flop message shift suggests the latter.
For half his term, he has presided over a regulatory expansion of the economy that has turned the business community against him. Last week, in a rather transparent move, he ordered an official review to "root out regulations that conflict, that are not worth the cost, or are just plain dumb." Sure.
Last year he held an economic summit and did not invite the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business association. This week, he will go to their headquarters just two blocks away to address them.
For two years, he waged war against an extension of the Bush tax cuts, only to agree last month, after a "shellacking" in the elections, to keep them through 2012, and claimed they would indeed be good for the economy and job creation. Even the Washington Post now calls them "the Obama tax cuts."
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