White House Press Secretary Jay Carney played movie critic for a moment when he suggested that the White House press corps watch a campaign movie about Obama’s first term “many times,” despite directing all other questions about the movie to the campaign.
“I thought it was superb,” Carney told reporters today during the press gaggle. “I’ll probably watch it many times. I hope you will, too.”
We laughed. We cried. We puked and felt a little better.
Well, obviously the narrative ought to be more important than any silly old facts.
If there is one consistent theme to the Obama presidency, it’s that he’s sought to blame his failures on others: George W. Bush, earthquakes, tsunamis, Europe, the Arab Spring, ATMs, Wall Street, Republicans, the Tea Party, Fox News, millioinaires, billionaires, conservative talk radio, and so forth and so on.
There are also references to Obama’s willingness to make “tough decisions” and “face crises that others would avoid” (presumably the producers have in mind Obama’s refusal to confront our entitlement crisis, which is fueling our debt crisis, and to fiercely attack those who do). The documentary claims Obama has brought the Iraq war to a “responsible end” (the American withdrawal from Iraq was mishandled and threatens to undo the progress that had been made).
Yet I came away from watching this documentary thinking if this is the best they can do, the president’s opponent in the fall should be encouraged.
The main emotion the producers of “The Road We’ve Traveled” are hoping to tap into is pity. We’re told Obama inherited the worst economy since the Great Depression (Ronald Reagan actually inherited a sicker economy than Obama did) and took steps that prevented the ship from hitting the rocks. In fact, though I realize this isn’t supposed to be said in polite company, it was George W. Bush who did the heaviest lifting when it came to taking emergency measures that kept the economy from collapsing and credit from freezing.
What’s most striking, though, is how little Obama has to show for his efforts. The documentary focuses almost exclusively on inputs, not outputs; on legislation passed, not successes attained; on narrative, not empirical progress.