Donald Lambro

STANFORD, CALIF. - There's a disconnect between the economy's relentless slowdown in the fourth year of Barack Obama's presidency and the sideshow issues he's raising on the campaign trail.

Actually, "issues" is a gross exaggeration of the sleight of hand politics he's practicing right now in a desperate bid to save his presidency. These are political "distractions" he hopes will keep voters from focusing on the policy failures that have led to an increasingly lethargic economy that is now on a precipitous downhill slide.

To wit: keeping student loan rates at their present levels is an issue no one disagrees with. The only issue is how to pay for it. The story was wholly manufactured by the White House to win back college graduates who can't find work in a jobless economy and have soured on Obama's presidency.

Before he switched to that issue, he was demagoguing tax "fairness" and bashing offshore tax shelters. Strange issues to raise at this juncture when he hasn't offered any full blown reform plan to deal with either one, despite tax overhaul proposals his own commission made two years ago but that he ignored.

What Obama is hoping is that if he pulls enough rabbits or distractions out of the hat over the course of the next six months, the voters and the news media won't focus on the issues that matter right now: a weakening economy and unemployment levels that remain stubbornly high in much of the country.

Friday's Commerce Department report that Obama's economy grew at an anemic 2.2 percent annual rate in the first quarter was Exhibit A in the president's 2012 report card.

The economy grew by a feeble 1.7 percent throughout all of last year, a sub-par performance in the third year of a very weak recovery that promises no improvement.

Obama fell back on his lame excuses that the country was still suffering from George W. Bush's policies, a tactic that is getting a little thread-bare in Obama's fourth year.

In Bush's last four years, the unemployment rates were 5.1 percent, 4.6 percent, 4.6 percent, and 5.8 percent. In Obama's four years: 9.3 percent, 9.6 percent, 8.9 percent, and 8.2 percent as of March.

Obama's spokesmen and campaign strategists had the temerity to say that at least the economy was still growing, as weak as that growth was.

The national news media did its best to soften the 2.2 percent growth rate story, by either downplaying its impact or looking for silver linings in a looming dark cloud.

"Economy continues on path of growth," the Washington Post's headline blustered in a front page story that said the nation's consumers were "energizing the recovery."

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.