Perhaps, having heard from left-of-center pundits that he needs to act more like Harry S Truman in order to win reelection next fall, President Obama is pulling a page from his Missouri predecessor’s playbook:
“I would love nothing more than to not be out there campaigning,” Obama said at a press conference in the East Room of the White House. “I would love nothing more than to see Congress get so aggressive… that I can’t campaign against them as a do-nothing Congress.”
He accused Republicans of objecting to his $447 billion American Jobs Act not for policy reasons, but because they want to thwart his reelection campaign.
Problem is that unlike Truman, Obama faces only one house of Congress controlled by the opposition. In 1948, when the Missouri Democrat ran for reelection, Republicans had majorities in both houses.
And the Republican chamber has hardly been a d0-nothing body, having passed numerous bills with job-creating reforms, only to see them languish in the Senate. And they’re not the kind of bills the president is likely to support.
It’s not that that House Republicans are doing nothing, it’s that they’re not doing what the president wants them to do.
The president is making a huge mistake by signaling so soon he intends to use the Truman playbook to win reelection. It gives House Republicans more time to pass legislation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is unlikely to bring up. They can fire back that their efforts to do something have been frustrated by the do-thing Democratic Senate. (Only problem is is that the media tends not to report the bills the Republican House has passed.)
That said, 527 organizations allied with the GOP will also have time to raise money and prepare ads, detailing Republican accomplishments and lambasting Senate inaction.
Truman didn’t signal that he would use the “do-nothing” theme until his party’s national convention in mid-July, 1948, fewer than four months before the general election. And he had a good sense he couldn’t get legislative Republicans to act on his proposals because of divisions within their ranks.
This time around, the divisions are within the Democrats’ ranks. Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, just blocked his Republican counterpart’s maneuver to bring the president’s bill up for a vote.
Now, this is not to say that Obama’s ploy won’t work. Some polling suggests more Americans support the president’s jobs bill than oppose it. But, would their support wane if they looked beyond the president’s rhetoric and realized that his proposal was little more than a scaled-down rehash of his “stimulus” (which “less than a third” of Americans thinks has helped the economy)?
The president is taking a gamble with this approach. It could succeed, but it also comes with numerous perils. The idea of the bill may earn majority support now, but many of its various components are not in sync with the popular mood.
Should Republicans fight back (as Tom Dewey’s Republicans failed to do), this Democratic president won’t enjoy the success his partisan predecessor did in 1948.