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August 31, 2011

George H.W. Bush (41) Promised A Big Speech on Turning The Economy Around, Too

Good piece on the danger of raising expectations.

The current squabble over the timing will elevate this speech's importance.

Can Obama rise to that challenge?

Um... does he usually rise to challenges?

On the surface, it might appear to be a good political strategy: gear up the public for a big announcement down the road and maximize attention to it. But in practice, the strategy is fraught with dangers, as the elder Bush found to his regret.

In the period between when Bush said he would unveil a plan and the actual rollout, public expectations for a magic solution skyrocketed to heights that no plan could have reached. After all, if there was some sure-fire cure for the nation’s economic ills, wouldn’t it have been tried by then?

Nonetheless, White House aides and strategists hyped the speech. They leaked hints of what might be coming and floated trial balloons in the news media to see how they might be received. Bush’s Democratic opponents gained tons of media attention criticizing the mythical plan from every angle, even though nothing had been officially proposed.

Inevitably, Bush lost control of the narrative to his critics. So when the much-ballyhooed speech was finally delivered, it crashed of its own weight. Obama could be facing a similar fate.

Here is what James Gerstenzang wrote in the Los Angeles Times on the eve of the 1992 Bush speech. Substitute Obama’s name for Bush’s and you have a textbook case of history repeating itself.

Now, the media will not be raising expectations here; instead, they will be emphasizing the difficulties Obama faces, and therefore lowering expectations as regards his abilities to overcome those difficulties.

Still, Obama is making this speech more prominent than it otherwise would have been.

George H.W. Bush proposed a mix of standard, unexciting, smaller-bore proposals to help spur the economy. They were greeted with yawns.

Obama is similarly hamstrung. He claims he wants to promote "bipartisan" solutions both parties can agree on, but the only stimulus the GOP would consider is a tax cut. Obama might propose another round of sending $400 checks to every citizen (as has happened before); but that seems desperate, and that also further worsens the debt problem.

So he can go small and bipartisan, which would wind up being greeted with indifference, or go big and liberal, which I think would be rejected outright. I don't think the public years for even more of what ails them.

He could try for that business payroll tax holiday I discussed two years ago, but paid for by what? He'd have to agree to cuts to domestic spending and entitlements (to take place, say, four years out) and he won't agree to that.

Swiped from Mickey Kaus.


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posted by Ace at 07:13 PM

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