And so Labor Day has passed, and soon Barack Obama will give his landmark address on job creation.

He was, as you probably know, going to give his speech on Wednesday — but, as usual, someone in this White House failed to do the most basic of legwork, which would have quickly revealed that a debate between the Republican presidential candidates had been scheduled for that day.

In fact, it has been scheduled for several months, and it is taking place at the library that bears the name of the Republicans’ 20th century idol, Ronald Reagan.

It took no special powers of prognostication to anticipate the donnybrook that would follow Obama’s hasty and ill–advised announcement of the original scheduling of this speech — or to predict that Obama would be forced to back down.

Yep, a little legwork could have prevented this president from a totally unnecessary and embarrassing scheduling confrontation with congressional Republicans that he was sure to lose.

But it was really no surprise that this administration — in its leap–before–you–look fashion — didn’t bother with the details. They would only get in the way of imposing The One’s will.

Anyway, when he did lose that one — in what may have been the most predictable result in a lifetime of observing American politics — Obama moved his speech back a single day — putting it in direct competition with the first pro football game of the 2011 season.

It is typical of the ham–handed way this administration operates.

Apparently, now that Obama’s presidency is clearly in jeopardy (I have felt that way for a long time, but now, even Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, who was one of the first to climb aboard the Barack Obama Express, before it pulled out of the station, concedes that Obama is “a guy in a really bad spot”), job creation has taken on a new urgency …

(The fierce urgency of now.)

In fact, I can only presume that, from Barack Obama’s vantage point, the unemployment crisis must have emerged from out of the blue, like the attack on Pearl Harbor — because it is usually only that kind of emergency that prompts a president to address a joint session of Congress.

Presidents, of course, speak to joint sessions of Congress when they give their annual State of the Union speeches, but, otherwise, an address to a joint session of Congress typically is given when the nation faces an unexpected emergency — like a Pearl Harbor.

A speech to a joint session of Congress — whether it is by a president or a foreign dignitary or someone else — is not the sort of thing Congress likes to allow very often. It turns the lawmakers’ domain into a stage for someone else.

I don’t think anyone disagrees that the joblessness crisis is a serious emergency — even the moral equivalent of war — but it has been far from an unexpected emergency, just an ignored one.

Consequently, I do not think there is anything about the current situation that truly warrants a speech before a joint session of Congress. A speech from the Oval Office would be more appropriate, I think — but, for some reason, Obama doesn’t like to give speeches there.

The unemployment situation was an emergency 2½ years ago, when monthly job losses were in six digits — but Obama obsessed instead about health care and his first Supreme Court nomination. That was how he chose to spend his political capital — along with spending the first Labor Day of his presidency preparing to address the schoolchildren of America.

Unemployment was 9.5% in September of 2009 — it’s 9.1% now.

Why wasn’t it a crisis worthy of a speech to a joint session of Congress then instead of now?

Probably because he hadn’t been president for a full year in September 2009, and he still enjoyed (to an extent) the traditional honeymoon relationship a new president enjoys. But in September 2011, he is about 14 months from facing an increasingly frustrated electorate — a majority of whom, as Dowd correctly observes, “still like and trust the president,” but that isn’t what a re–election campaign is about.

Obama was able to win the first time because he has a knack for fancy speechmaking. He promised “hope” and “change,” and that sounded good to a lot of people.

But that won’t do it this time. No matter how much the voters may like Obama, he will be judged by the results of his presidency. How much change has there been? In Reagan’s words, are you better off than you were four years ago?

And job approval surveys suggest that most voters do not believe Obama has delivered because he has been steadily losing ground.

Talk is cheap for incumbents. For an incumbent’s words to have any meaning, any value, they must be in harmony with reality, however harsh that reality may be.

It is not necessary for a president to have perfect political pitch, but if he and the voters are in sync, so much the better. To accomplish that, he must enlist the voters as his allies. He must take them into his confidence and explain to them why he believes certain things are necessary.

I have often felt that this president must be tone deaf — because, in virtually every situation he has faced since taking office, he has taken the position that is all but certain to arouse the wrath of the most people or his response has been slow and plodding.

To say this president has been disengaged with joblessness is to severely understate the situation. He has been disengaged on practically all things. The “Obamacare” legislation that stands as the president’s signature achievement wasn’t even authored by the White House. That responsibility was turned over to congressional Democrats.

But this president isn’t just tone deaf. He’s dumb and blind, too, the “Tommy” of American presidents.

I don’t really have a choice about whether to listen to him on Thursday. I have a news writing/gathering class to teach on Thursday evening, and if my students ask me about the presidential address, I will tell them it is important for working journalists to listen to a presidential address.

But if it is still in progress when I get home — and it probably will not be — I will choose to watch the football game.

As I wrote the other day, I’ve stopped listening to him — unless it leaks out that he is going to announce something truly bold.

Otherwise, I’ll pass. I have no desire to hear another State of the Unionesque laundry list of general (and mostly unrelated) proposals or a rerun of his 2008 stump speech.

Talk is cheap, Mister President. Let’s see some action. Real action.

David Goodloe got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 1982, and his master’s degree in journalism from the University of North Texas in 1991. He publishes the thoughtful weblog Freedom Writing. This post is cross posted from his website.

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  • SteveK

    It is typical of the ham–handed way this administration operates.

    A typical reaction from someone who a) hasn’t been paying attention or b) doesn’t know the definition of “ham-handed”

    If you want ham-handed look at the obstructionism from the right.

    It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose yours.
    – Harry S Truman

  • DaGoat

    This does have the look of a president who is just now figuring out that unemployment is a big problem after farting around for 2 1/2 years. My guess is it’s the kickoff to the one thing Obama does really well – campaign.

  • David_Goodloe

    SteveK —

    For your information,

    A) I HAVE been paying attention.

    B) I DO know the definition of “ham-handed.” It is precisely the word I intended to use.

  • Allen

    Can’t have Action, real Action, when he and his party are the only participants willing to do their job.

    In fact they are the only participants, because the Republicans are far to busy beating their intransigent chests getting paid to do NOTHING as America crumbles.

  • SteveK

    Thanks Allen

    The partisan hack nutters around here are to sold on themselves to look at this (or anything for that matter) with open minds.

  • JSpencer

    I too want to see action. I’m tired of pretty rhetoric (although it is nice to have a president who can speak in complete sentences and not mangle the language). That said, there are limits to what can be accomplished when the GOP is dedicated to his failure. It’s one thing to desire your political opponent to fail, but quite another when the orchestration of that failure extends to the country as a whole. I have no problem taking Obama to task, and I’ve done so many times, but he doesn’t operate in a vacuum.

  • DaGoat

    Looking at the advance word of what will be in Obama’s speech, there doesn’t seem to be anything there that would merit addressing a joint session of Congress. Maybe he’s holding back something dramatic.

  • David_Goodloe

    What’s that? The “other side” is dedicated to this president’s failure? Boo hoo hoo.

    Name a single president whose opponents in Congress were not.

    Presidents must lead. This president hasn’t done that.

    Presidents must also contend with opposition from members of Congress. This president whines about it.

    Guess what? Being president does not entitle you to unanimous support on everything you say.

  • Allen

    The President has Led!

    Republicans don’t WANT to be led.

    They want to take over and rape the nation some more like they did during the Bush years! They want to spend all that they can spend, then make the working people, and, poor pay for their extravagance!

    You can’t lead Jerks.

  • David_Goodloe

    And jerks can’t lead.

  • David_Goodloe

    By the way, for anyone who may be wondering …

    I am not a Republican. I never have been.

    I am an independent. I used to be a Democrat … until this president came along.

  • SteveK

    I used to be a Democrat … until this president came along.

    Spoken like a true ‘Southern Gentleman.’

  • JeffP

    1) I remember at the start of the 2008 campaign, economists were in general agreement that the reason that the Bush tax cuts hadn’t (in the first time in recent history) resulted in a growing economy was that health care costs were keeping real incomes hostage, and were a growing percentage of household expenditure, and that getting moderately ill was (and remains) the primary reason for personal family bankrupcy in this country, among insured families. Thus the reason for the focus early on.

    I’m afraid that regardless of political affiliation it will continue to be a drain on our economy and our personal potential growth, and that the ACA was a start but not going to be the end game-changer with our system of health care in this country.

    2) In the environment of “deficits DO matter,” I’m afraid there is really very little a central government has to offer (monetary policy options labeled as “treasonous” by recent GOP candidates) aside from massive public projects–seems we’re not in the mood for another New Deal, or at least the controllers of the dialogue think that.

    3) There needs to be some thought/platform besides tax cuts, deregulation, and repeal of ACA (basically Romney’s solution.) Those are beautiful party platforms to appeal to a few elite real-life situations, but is there any reason to think that almost a decade of the Bush history strategy will somehow work this time around?

    4) Wealth is extremely divided in this country, and I’m afraid will be the undoing of both representative democracy and the economy if it’s not addressed in real-time.

    Those are things I wish President Obama would address. Additionally I’m in agreement that this should be an appeal to the American People, from the Oval Office, and not to tone-deaf representatives in Congress.

  • JSpencer

    Sure, opposition from congress has to be expected, but it is reasonable to expect congress to have some desire to do their job as well. The hyper-partisan, dysfuntional nature of congress today is not normal and can’t be blamed on the president. If you want to blame someone, blame Newt Gingrich who threw out all the lessons of his betters when he became speaker of the house and who in effect eliminated the desire to work across the aisle. Of course republicans don’t like to be reminded of their failures, especially the ones that continue to plague us today, most of this is their own legacy.

  • JSpencer

    I agree with the oval office idea. Forget the congressional dog and pony show.

  • DaGoat


    If you want to blame someone, blame Newt Gingrich who threw out all the lessons of his betters when he became speaker of the house and who in effect eliminated the desire to work across the aisle.

    Yet Clinton was regarded as an effective president while Gingrich was Speaker.

  • JSpencer

    Yes, pretty amazing given the horrible climate. Just imagine the possibilities of a congress that was actually functional and doing it’s job.

  • casualobserver

    The polls certainly reaffirm the charge of tone-deafness and the more I make a study of Obama, the more I become convinced he really isn’t all that smart either, he’s just become practiced at trying to appear as such through speechifying. However, in in the interest of full disclosure, let’s remember his advisors did have him put forth a “stimuless” package in his early days in office.
    Nonetheless, the scorecard on that should serve as a factory recall notice on his Nobel Prize……
    “Counter to the predictions put forward a year ago by the Administration, when it claimed that “more than 90 percent of the jobs created are likely to be in the private sector,” U.S. companies employed 3.9 million fewer workers in January 2010 than they did one year earlier. Public employment bucked the trend, staying constant even as governments contended with sharply reduced tax revenues. ……….In late 2009, the Congressional Budget office pegged employment gains due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (A.R.R.A.) of 2009 at 600,000 to 1.6 million, while estimating its full cost at $862 billion. This implies a price tag, at the median estimate, of about $800,000 per job. These forecast job gains are not permanent, but temporary.”

    So, basically, Stimulus was simply an extremely expensive way to start paying state government workers unemployment benefits early.

    Until he grasps the notion that either he initiates a massive training and schooling program to bring low talent individuals up to a more value-proposition caliber……or he gets them used to the idea they’re certainly not economically worth any better pay scale than what the world pays to manufacture things……he can only sit around and pray the private sector gets some of this done before the next election.

  • Dr. J


    Looking at the advance word of what will be in Obama’s speech, there doesn’t seem to be anything there that would merit addressing a joint session of Congress.

    Wow, some content! And I agree with you, this seems pretty thin material for all the grandstanding.

    Then again, with the country’s credit cards are already maxed out, there isn’t much the government can do about unemployment. Maybe empty grandstanding is the right move, at least for anyone hoping to win an election next year.

  • Allen

    David Good…whatever…

    President Obama is the finest President we’ve had since John F. Kennedy. Certainly the most HONEST, and he certainly cares about the American people far more than any Republican ever did. This fact frightens the hell out of Republicans. That’s why there stated goal is to destroy him. Can’t have a popular liberal, oh no, can’t give that a try. Got to keep doing that status quo borrow and spend crap Nixon started then blame the resulting economic mess on the President they refuse to work with to solve it!

    It’s pretty clear to the entire world whom the Jerks are in our government; It’s The Republican Party.

  • dduck

    David, I have apologize for not skipping to the end of your wonderful, balanced, fair and well written article. Why because not knowing who the author was, I assumed it was by Hillary Clinton. Sorry.
    As you can see there are some folks on this thread that still believe walking on water is an Olympic sport practiced by great speech makers with nothing else to offer. I don’t know if Teddy R. was a good speech maker, but I know he had common sense (and a mean killer instinct) so he refused the Nobel prize. Obama, thinks the bigger the stage the more his words have weight or value. Does he have a BS in BS?

  • FDR’s speech is something of a study of the difference between one’s goals, and the real-world effects of their laws.

    1. A Job: Unemployment is close to 16%, but officially at 9.2%. We can’t even compare the rates, because of changes in how it’s reported.
    2. Adequate wage and decent living: a bit subjective, so it’s hard to say.
    3. The right of a farmer to sell their crops for a profit: family farms have been severely hurt by corporate farmers who learned to game the subsidies.
    4. The right of business to trade free from unfair competition and domination: the government has created monopolies, exclusive contracts, and high entrance costs that discourage competition.
    5. A decent home: The push to get everyone in a mortgage drove up the price of housing, both owned and rented. The GSE’s encouraged shoddy loan practices, because originators no longer had to worry about their own bad loans. The bubble pop has been hard on many mortgage holders, and a home without a mortgage is considered almost unnatural.
    6. Medical care: driven to non-affordability by excess licensing and supplements.
    7. Economic protection: mostly intact, but if left unchanged, will eventually exceed the country’s gross income.
    8. A good education: Driven out of reach by a poorly thought out student loan program.

    I wonder if FDR would have started these programs if he’d known where they would end up.