Back when he was first elected, Obama uttered the infamous line about how he would be looking at a "one term proposition" if people didn't consider themselves "better off" after three years of an Obama presidency. Now, during the election cycle, it's coming back to haunt him, and his surrogates and aides have given some evasive answers when asked if, in fact, we are better off.
It all started with Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's awkward flip-flop from yesterday (on Face the Nation: we're not better off, "but that's not the question for this election) to today (in a tweet: We're clearly better off because we're creating jobs! Duh!). What a miraculous reversal in our nation's fortunes -- and in just twenty-four hours!
But despite O'Malley's clumsy attempt to walk back what he said, the question still haunted Joe Biden on the campaign trail in Detroit. Yes, we're better off, he says -- and if it wasn't so hot, he'd tell you why:
Providing conclusive proof of how Obama made us better off ought to be worth a few extra minutes in the heat, don't you think? But no matter -- just trust him. You are definitely better off.
Then there's the bevy Obama staffers who hit the airwaves today with their spin, trying to clean up that hot mess:
Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace and Obama campaign senior adviser David Axelrod had a similar back and forth. “David, is the average American better off than four years ago?” Wallace asked. Axelrod responded: “I think the average American recognizes that it took years to create the crisis that erupted in 2008 and peaked in January of 2009. And it’s gonna take some time to work through it.”
But on CNN’s “Early Start” this morning, anchor John Berman elicited a different response from Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse.
“Brad you’ve been shaking your head, as you’ve been sitting off camera, because we’ve been playing all the sound from the last 24 hours of Democrats being asked ‘are you better off today than you were four years ago?’” Berman noted. “So, I’ll give you the chance to ask the question: Are we better off than we were four years ago?”
“Absolutely,” Woodhouse said.
On the Today Show, NBC’s Natalie Morales asked Obama campaign deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter: “Let me begin by starting with that central question on a lot of people’s minds, and that is are we better off today than we were four years ago when President Obama was elected?”
“Absolutely,” Cutter said. “Let me just walk you through what life was like four years ago.”
As Jake Tapper notes in that post, answering honestly about how we're not better off is more of a losing strategy than flip-flopping on the issue. But those soundbites are still out there, and most of us know at least one person who's been out of a job, or whose business is still struggling. We're not better off just because an Obama flak says so. Maybe they ought to brave the heat and give a real explanation.