With the jobless rate floating above 8%, the American people are ready to hand President Obama a pink slip. Listen to my commentary on National Public Radio or read the transcript below:
Long before Donald Trump’s “Apprentice,” Billy Crystal starred in the movie “Mr. Saturday Night.” Crystal plays a crotchety TV host who chews out his staff: “You’re fired! You’re fired!” One guys squeaks, “I don’t work here.” Crystal says, “You’re hired. Now you’re fired! Get outta here!”
Americans aren’t shy about firing their president when the economy flounders. That should worry President Obama. Today the jobless rate is 8.5 percent and drifting lower. But the American people threw out George Herbert Walker Bush in 1992 with a 7.4 percent jobless rate — and he’d won the Gulf War.
Ronald Reagan got the American people to toss Jimmy Carter overboard. Reagan had a great punchline, worthy of Billy Crystal. “Recession is when your neighbor loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his.”
Reagan, like Obama, inherited a lousy economy. But Reagan won a landslide re-election with patriotic ads that rang true because Reagan himself appeared like a nostalgic Uncle Sam poster. People felt his tax cuts worked. The slogan: “It’s morning in America.” What can Barack Obama say? “It’s 2012, but it’s not the end of the world!”
Obama’s got to do more than prove the Mayans wrong. He’s got to show he’s on the side of discouraged independents. That’s tough when you come off as cool as a be-bop riff. Obama told Rolling Stone he listens to a lot of Miles Davis. But Davis used to play with his back to the audience. A president is not a jazz virtuoso. Instead he’s our national talk show host — Johnny Carson, Brian Williams, Conan, Regis, Letterman and Leno rolled into one. Right now, when Americans see Barack Obama, they’re ready to change the channel.