Remember this, from a few years back?

Shortly before his break-out speech at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston, Barack Obama looked out over the crowd and told Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell, “I’m Lebron, baby. I can play on this level. I got game.”

Lebron James had a fantastic game last night, scoring 45 points as the Heat defeated the Celtics. This afternoon, Obama scored the equivalent of 45 points for the Romney campaign, thanks to these comments during his press conference:

The private sector is doing fine. Where we’re seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government — oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government…

That’s bad, obviously. But the full context is much worse. Earlier in the presser, the president said this:

Overall, the private sector has been doing a good job creating jobs. We’ve seen record profits in the corporate sector.

The big challenge we have in our economy right now is state and local government hiring has been going in the wrong direction. You’ve seen teacher layoffs, police officers, cops, firefighters being laid off. And the other sector that’s still weak has been the construction industry. Those two areas we’ve directly addressed with our jobs plan. The problem is that it requires Congress to take action, and we’re going to keep pushing them to see if they can move in that direction.

The point the president is trying to make here is defensible: The private sector is adding jobs, but these two sectors are weak and we need to focus on them. I don’t buy this argument for a minute; in fact I think his American Jobs Act is just a bunch of symbolism designed to get the unions working full time for him. But it’s an argument that does not sound ridiculous.

But then he tried to repeat it, literally seconds later, and it sounded ridiculous.

Obama has long been praised as a great orator, but he just plain isn’t, at least when he’s off script. He went out today to make a fairly mild and modest point, made it successfully the first time, but on the second attempt he screwed it up.

Lebron, baby? I don't think so!

Jay Cost is a staff writer for THE WEEKLY STANDARD and the author of Spoiled Rotten: How the Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic, available now wherever books are sold.

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