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Economic Speed Bump or Double Dip Recession?

There are no easy political solutions to our troubling economic outlook.

12:01 AM, Jun 4, 2011 • By IRWIN M. STELZER
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Which suits the Republicans just fine. They feel the slowing economy is their ticket to the White House, and are buoyed by the fact that no sitting president since Franklin Roosevelt has been re-elected when the unemployment rate was above 7.2% on the day voters went to the polls. President Obama, they reckon, cannot survive unless the economy is in an unmistakable upswing before the November 2012 election, one that brings the unemployment rate down very substantially from its current level of 9.1%. Odd, that sort of Marxist economic determinism coming from the right, as if man lives by bread alone.

These Republican optimists paid insufficient attention to the President’s performance on his recent European trip. President O’Bama stroked America’s ethnic Irish voters in key states by downing the obligatory Guinness, and soothed voters with emotional ties to Poland by deploying some American troops in their country of origin. With a deftness often absent from his foreign policy decisions, he at the same time maintained his “reset” policy with Russia by giving the Russian arms industry a boost with an order for helicopters, a decision he or his successor may one day come to regret.

More important, in London he displayed the political gifts that seem to have deserted him in recent months. Elegant chumminess with Her Majesty and the enormously popular newlyweds, Kate and Wills. Seriousness of purpose and soaring oratory about Western values when addressing Parliament and notables at Westminster Hall. Man-of-the-people flipping burgers in the garden of Number 10. And a fashionable wife who shrewdly brought ethnic minority London schoolgirls, many wearing head scarves, to Christ Church, Oxford, for photo ops, hugs and to be told, “My story is your story.”

This in not a man whose re-election effort will be derailed because of a mere set of economic data, or a few tenths of a point difference in the GDP or unemployment rates. Especially by the likes of the candidates the Republicans so far have on offer.

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