"My rival in this race," President Obama announced early in 2007, "is not other candidates. It's cynicism." Sadly, it's now evident cynicism won.
In a much-hyped speech at Knox College on Wednesday, Obama sought to pivot back to the economy -- as the journalistic cliché goes -- and shape the issue environment for the 2014 congressional elections.
Because of an "endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals," the president said, "Washington's taken its eye off the ball." The ball here is the economy, in case you didn't know.
It's an odd claim. Elected twice, Obama is in the fifth year of his presidency. During his first two years in office, his party controlled both houses of Congress and rammed through its agenda. Largely as a result, Democrats lost the House in 2010, but they have retained the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid has been playing the Igor to Obama's Dr. Frankenstein ever since (though reporters have yet to catch Reid actually saying "Yetthhhh master" on tape). At Obama's bidding, the Senate failed to pass a budget for four years and refused to take up any meaningful legislation passed by the House.
That's not the narrative you usually hear, because for most of Obama's presidency, the Washington press corps was enthralled with him. It wasn't until the dawn of his second term that most reporters stopped asking questions like, "Can you create a boulder too heavy for you to lift?"
It's also odd that Obama has pivoted back to the economy when, depending on whose estimates you use, he's made similar "pivots" on average once every 2-4 months since he's been elected. As one wag told the Weekly Standard, "You do that on the basketball court, you get called for traveling." But the more apt image is of a basketball player with one shoe nailed to the floor, constantly pivoting in a circle.
But it's not just odd, it's deeply cynical. For starters, it was the re-elected president -- not "Washington" -- who took his eyes off the economy to exploit a tragedy for new gun controls that would not have prevented the tragedy itself. His unilateral crackdown on carbon emissions isn't exactly a full-throated effort to create jobs either. When Congress took its eye off the ball by taking up immigration reform, the White House cheered.