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Howler of the Day (So Far!)

Joe Klein pulls a Carter.

1:52 PM, Jan 25, 2010 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Time columnist Joe Klein is angry that the public doesn't think the stimulus succeeded:

It is very difficult to have a democracy without citizens. It is impossible to be a citizen if you don't make an effort to understand the most basic activities of your government. It is very difficult to thrive in an increasingly competitive world if you're a nation of dodos.

I would say this is exactly the wrong response liberal Democrats should have to public disapproval of the Obama agenda.

To date, the Obama White House has been careful not to blame the American people for the Democrats' failures. Obama campaigned on a promise to redeem America from Bush, to make the government live up to its citizenry. But his agenda has polarized the electorate and soured the public on the president and his party.

Why shouldn't the American people believe the stimulus failed? The administration backed the stimulus with the explicit promise that unemployment would be held to 8 percent if the bill passed. Didn't happen. It is no doubt true that unemployment would have been worse without the stimulus--state and local governments would have had to lay off many people without federal aid to the states, for example--but parties do not win elections with the slogan, "Hey, it could've been worse!" The stimulus was sold to the public under the banner of economic recovery. And while stimulus measures help boost short-term economic growth by bringing demand forward, the recovery is neither strong nor durable. A jobs plan that does not produce jobs growth is not a success.

Klein is a leading indicator: he harkens back to the tradition of liberals blaming others for their own failures. What was significant about President Carter's malaise speech was its implication that there was something wrong with America which prevented him from having a successful presidency. Obama knows better. But, if he follows Klein's lead, it will be only a few years before he gives a malaise speech of his own. And if that happens, the clock will begin to count down the remaining seconds of his one--and only--term.

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