I’ve never been one for long-distance psychoanalysis, especially of political figures. I don’t know them, and, besides, I’m not really competent to make a clinical judgment. Instead, I follow Paul Krugman’s simple rule of punditry:
Long ago — basically when I started writing for the Times — I decided that I would judge the character of politicians by what they say about policy, not how they come across in person. This led me to conclude that George W. Bush was dishonest and dangerous back when everyone was talking about how charming and reasonable he was. It led me to conclude that Colin Powell couldn’t be trusted, back when everyone said his UN speech clinched the case for war. It led me to conclude that John McCain was unprincipled and self-centered, back when everyone said he was a deeply principled maverick. And yes, it led me to conclude that Barack Obama was a good man, but far less progressive than his enthusiastic supporters imagined.
So I don’t know what Obama really thinks about the employment deficit (also known as unemployment). But it seems to me he just really doesn’t care that much.
Not that I’m surprised: were our politics not so screwed up by race, Obama would be a Rockefeller Republican (which would be an improvement over the current variety). But a Democrat, and not just liberal Democrats, would be freaking out over 9-10% unemployment and nearly 20% underemployment. Yet he’s not. If he were, he wouldn’t be arguing that we should consider delaying new government hires.
Which brings me to Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker. Baker is probably to the left of Obama on social issues–he’s comfortable with gay marriage and abortion, and doesn’t try to shy away from those positions. But like Obama, Baker just doesn’t seem to be overly concerned with the employment deficit (italics mine):
Baker has fashioned his campaign on capturing voter anger at Beacon Hill, exemplified by its “Had Enough!” slogan. That strategy misses the public mood, which is driven more by anxiety about the recession’s effects on their families and communities, according to many analysts and insiders — including some lower-ballot Republican candidates, not wishing to be named.
It more closely reflects Baker’s own attitude. He seems to be genuinely offended by what he sees as wasteful government spending, and that is where he almost inevitably veers, regardless of the topic or question….
In contrast to his deep feelings about the budget, Baker almost never speaks about, let alone gets animated over, actual hardships or difficult choices that people are dealing with.
Unfortunately, that’s not where voters are, even those inclined to vote for him:
A woman in her 60s, ready to vote against Patrick and generally impressed by what she’s heard about Baker, told me at the Needham Harvest Fair that she was concerned by his plan to fire 5000 state employees. “What happens to them?” she wondered. I’ve heard the same thought expressed repeatedly, including from a strong Baker supporter at the Women for Baker event….
If Charlie Baker sees the “faces behind the budget” that [Democrat Deval] Patrick speaks of, he doesn’t let on.
The bottom is that Obama, like Baker, really doesn’t care about unemployment. I don’t mean that in a sociopathic sense, but simply that unemployment isn’t a priority for him. Because if unemployment were a priority–the priority–he would do much more. He would fight harder. He would work to change minds.
That he has not done so is all you need to know about his priorities.