In the face of unfolding disaster in Cairo, not to mention the sweeping court decision declaring Obamacare a blatant violation of the Constitution, the president should junk every scrap of his silly and ill-conceived "Win the Future" investment agenda. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tartly observed: "Investment is just a polite Latin word for more government spending." Can even the most devoted Democratic Kool-Aid drinkers continue to claim that ambitious new expenditures represent a sure-fire cure for looming bankruptcy?
The president's defenders -- led, as always, by the shameless and indefatigable Chris Matthews -- found reason to praise the chief executive's sunny, reassuring, Reaganesque optimism. Time magazine even made the two presidents their joint cover-boys -- Obama and Ronald Reagan, smiling side by side, as if they were unlikely running mates. After all, the Gipper also ignored swelling deficits and sobering foreign threats and won a landslide re-election over Gloomy Gus Democrats by convincing the public that we had reached "morning in America."
The contrast in the fiscal situation undermines the comparison, however.
For Reagan, the deficit as a percentage of gross domestic product peaked at 6 percent, then declined as he sought re-election. Under Obama, that number rose above 10 percent, and the Congressional Budget Office recently projected it will remain at those levels throughout his first term. Moreover, Reagan campaigned for his second term with the unemployment rate at 7.2 percent and falling. No one -- not even the administration's bullish economic experts -- predicts that the sputtering, on-again/off-again recovery will take us below 8 percent any time near November 2012.
Moreover, there's a fundamental difference in the nature of Reagan's fondly remembered optimism and the forced, smiley-face good cheer of Obama's "Win the Future" sloganeering.
President Reagan felt confident about the American people; President Obama expresses confidence in the federal government. The 40th chief executive believed that ordinary citizens, through their own hard work and dedication, could overcome even the most misguided and damaging governmental policies. The 44th White House occupant maintains that robust government spending (er, investment) can overcome even the most acute suffering and anxiety on the part of the dejected populace.
Left-leaning media ridiculed the grim and sobering pronouncements by leading Republicans (most notably Rep. Paul Ryan) in their response to Obama's happy-talk. In light of the historic events that followed the big speech, including the Egyptian crisis and the judicial rejection of the president's utopian health care schemes, those warnings sound increasingly like a bracing, much-needed dose of realism and maturity.