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Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012

The curtain falls on U.S. left's forced exuberance

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The forced exuberance on the left over last Friday's mediocre jobs report is understandable. There is little to cheer about for Obama supporters. U.S. President Barack Obama's debate outing was a disaster, he lacks a compelling second-term agenda and the Libya debacle is generating daily headlines. The polls are shifting as much or more as they did after the Democratic National Convention, but this time in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's direction.

In the post-debate days, Romney has stuck strongly to his clearer, more empathetic messaging. In his weekly podcast he is making the case that the "recovery" is pathetic, an argument historically valid when you compare it to all other recoveries since World War II. This will no doubt form the core of his argument in the ensuing debates.

"We created fewer jobs in September than in August, and fewer jobs in August than in July, and we've lost over 600,000 manufacturing jobs since President Obama took office," Romney said in a written statement on Friday. "If not for all the people who have simply dropped out of the labor force, the real unemployment rate would be closer to 11 percent. The results of President Obama's failed policies are staggering — 23 million Americans are struggling for work, nearly one in six are living in poverty, and 47 million people are dependent on food stamps to feed themselves and their families."

The first debate focused in large part on Romney's policies, but the president has a more fundamental problem: He doesn't have much of a second-term agenda. Raising taxes is not about promoting a recovery, as even he would likely concede. Hiring 100,000 teachers may or may not be a good idea, but it's a puny response to the prospect of ongoing high unemployment. And promoting community college may be a good idea as well (are there really 2 million people who can't afford it?), but at most all this would do would be to herd more people out of the labor market (and thereby bring down the unemployment rate by reducing labor participation yet again). His budgets have never dipped below $1 trillion in debt, he's offered no plan to avoid the fiscal cliff, and we face a defense sequestration that will increase unemployment by 200,000.

The biggest problem for Obama is not a bad debate performance; it is a lousy record, a demonstrated inability to work with the other party and the absence of a compelling agenda. Obama had banked on disqualifying Romney as an unacceptable alternative. After Oct. 3's debate, that is impossible now, I would suggest. So once again, why is it that we should re-elect him?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

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