Are You In?

Posted by By at 12 April, at 18 : 47 PM Print

If you want to see the new Chicago Barry video you have to be “in” – or have the App for That. (Please note: from now through election day 2012 I will be using “Chicago Barry” to distinguish the President, who by any estimation is the ultimate Washington Insider, from the guy who will be telling me he is an outsider trying to fix the mess he created as President).

But I was curious, and my iPhone was recharging and my iPad was in my car, so I went online to see it.The statement on the front door is telling – and the suggestion is obvious. Let’s read:

As the 2012 election begins, we know grassroots support will be more important than ever before. President Obama is working every day to keep making America stronger – and together we’ve got an opportunity to get his back. Sign up for campaign updates and see how you can help build on our progress. Join us in the fight to keep building a better, more prosperous America.”

“Are you in?”

Now, I don’t claim to be cool, nor will I ever be regarded as “in” – I am more of the belief that “classics never go out of style,” and my candidate profile in Philly magazine opened with “Scott Paterno used to be cool,” so I am ok with this. I can easily resist the siren’s song of peer pressure.

But having said that, can anyone imagine even Clinton using such a glib intro? Seriously, is a national election, during THREE wars and in the midst of what is at best a sputtering economic “recovery” being weakened by near record gas prices, the time for hollow slogans?

I guess it is,if all you have ever been (and perhaps all you will ever be) is a mix of slogans and media appearances surrounded by mushy leadership at critical junctures. So, with an actual record on which to run and with policy initiatives both passed and slaughtered, why is he reaching back for the sizzle? Because that is all he ever had, the steak was nothing more than overcooked scrapple. And his term so far proves that.

The biggest weakness Chicago Barry has is his Presidential doppelganger’s own resume – his signature initiative is still wildly unpopular, unemployment is still higher today (8.8%) than it was when he took office (7.6%), the deficit has grown by 60% — before we implement Obamacare, and the stimulus appears to have done less with more by almost any measure. Throw in a comical joke of a budget proposal 1A (its time for an Adult Presidential budget, sir) and no wonder the best Chicago Barry can do is ask for blind allegiance to “get his back.”

And he has to ask his base for said blind allegiance because he has largely failed them – repealing DADT and dropping the defense of marriage aside. After all, he really can’t blame Bush this time, as President Obama is the reason Gitmo is STILL open, that we are STILL in Iraq, that we have MORE troops in Afghanistan, that we are in a third war, that the Bush tax cuts were extended, and the Patriot Act was renewed. The fact is a return to “Yes We Can” will look ridiculous when “No You Didn’t” could be yelled back to many, many things – just ask Rep. Kucinich.

So, when you look at the conditions on the ground – Independents unhappy, the right unhappy, and even the far left with a twist in their knickers – “get my back” might be as good as he has to offer.

But even that sophomoric appeal is nothing compared to playground-appropriate “are you in?” question.  The implication is obvious – people with me are “in,” those not with me are “out.” No policy reasons, no strong record of accomplishment, and no fiscal responsibility to the generation he is seeking to fleece yet again; no, all we get is a simple “join the party – be cool.”

Shouldn’t we expect more in times such as these – more than that, at ANYTIME? Is his plan really trying to use peer pressure to get traction? Is he creating a “cool kid” clique to try and cover over his glaring Presidential failings? The appeal would seem desperate and doomed to fail except that it is likely to snow the same people he bamboozled back in 2008 – like my brother. And therein lie the danger and the disservice.

I say danger because we should never elect the sizzle – R or D. We need steak; no, check that, we have to cut budgets – make it hot dogs (often sold 2 for 1 these days!). We can’t afford another four years of kicking the can down the road on entitlements and spending issues. And that is a real danger when the current occupant seems to think you must spend to save.

But, even worse than that danger is the disservice this President is doing to our body politic’s future. I say that because he has only managed to get a surface engagement from his “new” voters – just look at the 2010 turnout numbers. These voters have shallow grasp of issues and cheap slogans like Hope and Change, Yes We Can, Win the Future, and Are You In? simply further that shallowness.

It is such a disservice because he could have been transformative in a positive way. He had the attention of young people, and all he did was manipulate their fears and naïveté to get elected – he never got them to buy in beyond simply joining his own personal cult of personality. And, bluntly, the tone and tenor of his campaign launch are beneath a sitting President.

Can you imagine Lincoln starting his re-election bid with “The Union – you in?” Or Reagan running in 1984 on the platform of “Really? Mondale? Next.” How about Kennedy doing an ad with Sinatra and pals that made him look like the newest member of the Rat Pack (if he had been alive to run in 1964)? In serious times serious leaders use campaigns as ways to shape opinion and raise calls to action FOR THE NATION (with the obvious implication that only the incumbent can deliver the same). Here? Chicago Barry is asking you to join him to protect HIM – mainly because all the cool kids are doing it.

On the anniversary of the commencement of the Civil War – a war where tens of thousands of boys died to keep the Union whole and to end slavery on these shores – maybe its time we honored their memory and engaged in a meaningful debate that raises the level of discourse and helps us become stronger as a whole nation, not just as a party in competition for power?

We tried Compassionate Conservatism and Hope and Change. Now we need a heavy dose of Cold Reality – and a genuine ADULT debate about where we go from here. So I ask, Mr. President, can you drop the pithy slogans and discuss how you will trim not a pittance from the deficit but a chunk from the debt? I ask will you tell me how we are going to meet our ever-expanding military commitments with increasingly less money for defense? I ask, as a citizen of the United States, are you willing to stop the demagoguery (like Donna Brazille shamefully using the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death for democratic political posturing on behalf of Unions, of all things) and discuss candidly how we fix our fiscal house?

Well? Are you in?

This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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