Hel-lo, Mr. President! Have you gone bonkers?
The nation is clawing its way out of the worst recession since the Great Depression. The private sector is NOT doing just fine.
Slip of the tongue, you say?
Freudian slip might be more like it. At least that's what Mitt Romney and the Republicans are saying.
In fact, Romney actually may have shown remarkable constraint in reacting to the president¿s press conference bumble.
"Is he really that out of touch?" Romney said at a campaign appearance in Iowa. "He's defining what it means to be detached and out of touch with the American people."
Here's what happened:
Friday, the president called a press conference. He didn't really have any news to deliver. He just wanted to slap the Republicans around a bit for not supporting his jobs bill. He ended up being the one getting slapped around. All day. By conservatives and liberals alike.
All it took was six words.
Obama said, "The private sector is just fine."
Within minutes, the economic "headwinds" Obama has been blaming the slow growth on turned into a hurricane, aimed at the president.
"The private sector is so foreign to him he might need a passport to go visit," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told a group of conservatives in Chicago. "He might need a translator to talk to people in the private sector."
The Republican National Committee posted a web video showing the president repeating his infamous six words -- twice. It ended with the question:
"How can President Obama fix our economy ... if he doesn't understand what's broken?"
It's almost identical to a campaign ad Obama used in 2008 against his then- opponent, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Everyone knew the economy was falling to pieces. But McCain said, the "fundamentals of our economy are strong."
Obama's ad showed McCain making the statement, three times. It ended with the words:
"How can John McCain fix our economy ... if he doesn't understand it's broken?"
By Sunday, the Republicans had done it again. They rolled out a fresh video, with people talking about how they had lost their jobs, couldn't make ends meet, been forced into bankruptcy. It ends with the president saying, three times in a row: "The private sector is doing fine."
The truth is, the president's words were taken out of context at the press conference.
His point was that private sector jobs have been growing for more than two years. Public sector jobs, hammered by government cutbacks, have been shrinking. The president wants to give states help so they can keep teachers and cops and firefighters working, and fund public-works projects to get construction workers back on the job. The Republican-controlled House has blocked him.
"We've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. 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 and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in."
All people heard was, "The private sector is doing fine."
Even if it was taken out of context, even if it's not what the president meant to say, it is absolutely whacko to let words like that roll out of his mouth. He's the commander in chief. And he¿s locked in brutal re-election fight. It makes people wonder: If he makes mistakes like that at a press conference of his own making, what other errors is he capable of?
The press, and the Republicans, pounced.
"For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a president who's out of touch," Romney said. "We're gonna take back this country and get America working again."
Obama was forced to clarify -- or try to, at least -- during, of all things, an Oval Office appearance with Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.
"The economy is not doing fine," Obama said. "There are too many people out of work. The housing market is still weak, too many homes underwater, and that's precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that can make a difference."
Romney and the Republicans have been pounding the president over the economy for months. They've said again and again that this election is about only one thing: the economy.
And he just went and gave them a gimme. This one is going to haunt him.
Sunday, on CNN's "State of the Union," Obama's senior campaign strategist, David Axelrod, was asked if the "private sector" comment would hurt his campaign.
"I think the American people are smarter than that," Axelrod said.
Maybe. But many thought the president was, too.
And despite Axelrod's prediction, looking back in November, it may well be remembered as the moment when Obama lost the election.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison