Donald Lambro
President Obama went on the political offensive Wednesday by reviving the old class warfare enmity he hopes will excite the liberal base of his party, while accusing Republicans of playing politics with our nation's economic future.

But who was really playing politics in Washington this week? The Republicans, who believe we have to get deadly serious about a national debt approaching $15 trillion and cut spending? Or Obama, who thinks now is the time to start bashing American corporations, owners of private jets, mutual hedge funds, the oil industry, and just about anyone who happens to be wealthy?

First, let's get several things straight, if only to put the president's desperate, election-cycle outbursts into some kind of political context:

The Gallup Poll earlier this week said Obama's job approval score had dropped to 43 percent, with nearly 50 percent saying they disapproved of his performance. Several polls showed that about six in 10 disapprove of his handling of the economy, and 75 percent of Americans think the country is still in a recession.

Both Gallup and voter exit polls have shown that Obama has lost the support of independents who helped elect him, and many Democrats aren't as enthused about him as they once were. The party's base is dispirited. There are reports that his once-mighty fundraising prowess is now a struggle among the big-money people who backed him in 2008 and that he will need again if he is to raise the $1 billion his advisers say it will take to win a second term.

As he nears the halfway mark in the third year of his presidency, the U.S. economy remains -- choose your own description -- anemic, weak, fragile, mediocre. The Federal Reserve says this economy is not growing at the rate it had hoped, slowing down to a crippling 1.9 percent, the economic equivalent of virtually standing still.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, like Herbert Hoover, keeps saying stronger growth is just around the corner, but now he sounds less certain of that.

This snail's-pace growth translates into a bleak, recession-like jobs environment (only 54,000 jobs created in May) that has pushed unemployment up to more than 9 percent nationally and into the double-digit range in states both large and small.

The Conference Board Consumer Research Center reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index fell to a seven-month low of 58.5 in June, down from 61.7 in May, a 3.2 drop. A score of 90 is considered healthy, but the index hasn't been in that range since 2007 under George W. Bush.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.