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About That 'Ditch'

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Here's a technique they don't teach in campaign school: Patronize the voters. President Obama, speaking at a fundraiser in Boston, said, "People out there are still hurting very badly, and they are still scared. And so part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we're hard-wired not to always think clearly when we're scared. And the country is scared, and they have good reason to be."

He might as well have reminded his listeners that you can expect little else of people who "cling" to their Bibles and guns and hostility to those who are different. If the people of the United States are losing confidence in President Obama, he wants it clearly understood that he is losing confidence in them as well. If they are considering voting for candidates Obama disapproves, it's because fear has paralyzed their capacity for reasoned judgment.

That must be it. It couldn't be that voters gave Mr. Obama a chance and are now holding him accountable for his failures.

The recession that began in December 2007, the National Bureau of Economic Research reports, ended in June 2009. It was the longest recession since the end of World War II. The recovery has accordingly been underway for 16 months. But unlike previous recoveries from steep downturns, this one has been barely distinguishable from the recession itself. As Michael Boskin noted, "Compared to the 6.2 percent first-year Ford recovery and 7.7 percent Reagan recovery, the Obama recovery at 3 percent is less than half speed. The unemployment rate would now be 8 percent or lower at those higher growth rates."

As the economy has failed to rebound robustly, President Obama has persisted in speaking like a campaigner instead of an executive. Though he and his party have been in complete charge for two years, his rhetoric has scarcely changed. During the campaign, he told voters that he understood what had gone wrong and could fix it. "Our falling GDP is a direct result of eight years of the trickle-down, Wall Street-first, Main Street-last policies that have driven our economy into a ditch," he explained in June 2008. The recession was "the logical conclusion of a tired and misguided philosophy that has dominated Washington for far too long."

But that "philosophy" was replaced, was it not, by the "spread the wealth around" and "leave everything to Washington" approach of the liberal Democrats? Did not Mr. Obama promise, just after the 2008 victory, "a plan big enough for the challenges we face" that would bring "new ideas and new reforms that will create jobs and fuel long-term economic growth"? Did he not promise that "we'll put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing schools that are failing our children, and building wind farms and solar panels, fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead"? Did Congress not fully cooperate?

Those jobs have failed to materialize, but President Obama doesn't for a second consider that his massive stimulus program, health care overhaul and financial regulation may have been failures. He remains stuck on blaming Republicans. The "mess" he inherited was far worse than he first realized, he explains. In fact, his metaphor hasn't even changed: "You had a group of folks who drove the economy, drove the country, drove our car into the ditch," he told Los Angeles Democrats in August.

President Obama thinks Americans have been stupefied by fear. But far from clouding their judgment, fear may have clarified things. They are afraid that if liberal Democrats continue to heap layers of taxes, uncertainties and mandates on American businesses; if they continue to treat businesspeople as public enemies; if they chase fantasies like "green jobs" rather than permitting entrepreneurs to seek opportunities on their own; and if they continue to burden already weary taxpayers with ever escalating debt, the American economy -- the greatest engine of prosperity in the history of the world -- could be shriveled into a pathetic shell of its former self, unable even to pay the interest on its totally avoidable debt.

Mrs. Obama is right. This is "a serious moment for the country, with so much at stake."

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