Obama Speech Returns to Fiery Campaign Mode
Frederick Cosby | 7/11/2010, 10:52 a.m.
President Barack Obama unofficially kicked off his role as campaigner-in-chief for Democrats in November's midterm elections - and perhaps previewed his own 2012 re-election campaign - Thursday by aggressively calling out Republicans and warning voters not to let the GOP "bamboozle" or "okie-doke" them.
Campaigning in Kansas City, Missouri for Democratic Senate candidate Robin Carnahan, Obama was in Campaign 2008 form, offering pointed quips aimed at the Republican Party and its leaders, who he said "drove the economy into a ditch, and they want the keys back."
"And you got to say the same thing to them you say to your teenager: You can't have the keys back because you don't know how to drive yet," Obama said. "You can't have them. Maybe you take a remedial course. I'll let you out to the parking lot, and you can drive in circles. But we're not going to let you out on the open road."
Obama labeled congressional Republicans as the "party of no" and accused them of proposing the same, warmed-over policies that were offered under former President George W. Bush.
"They're trying to sell you the same stuff they've been peddling - I'm just saying," Obama said. "They are peddling that same snake oil that they've been peddling now for years. And somehow they think you will have forgotten that it didn't work."
The president equated the GOP economic strategy - largely hinged on tax cuts for higher wage earners and increased deregulation - to a bad movie.
"We've seen this one," the president told he crowd. "They're trying to run the okie-doke on you. Trying to bamboozle you. That made you laugh - okie-doke. You remember that?"
The last time Obama used the slang term was during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries when he was fending off suggestions from then-Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign that he would make a good vice president - for her.
"You all know the okie-doke?" he said in March 2008. "It's like when somebody is trying to bamboozle you. When they're trying to hoodwink you."
Obama said he Republicans and other critics are trying to scare voters by reminding them that he and a Democratic-controlled Congress passed health care reform, the economic stimulus package and other policies.
"It's like, 'Well, he went ahead and did health care. Why did he do that?'" Obama said. "I said I was going to do health care ... We said we would do something; we did it. Yes, we did."
Obama, however, does appear to be paying a political price for his policies. A Gallup poll released earlier this week said the president has a 46 percent approval rating. Perhaps more worrisome to the White House is that Obama's approval ratings among independent voters has dropped from 56 percent a year ago to just 38 percent today.
But Thursday's speech seemed geared more towards firing up the Democratic base than trying to appeal to independents.
Obama mocked Republican leaders, calling them out by name. He poked fun at House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who complained that Obama's approach to fixing the economy and reforming Wall Street are like a nuclear weapon to kill an ant.
"The worst crisis since the Great Depression he calls an ant," Obama said to laughter. "You got to make a movie: 'The Ant That Ate the Economy.' An ant."
Boehner issued a terse statement saying that "On President Obama's watch, more than three million Americans have lost their jobs and unemployment is near 10 percent."
"The American people continue to ask, where are the jobs?" Boehner said. "But the president keeps whining and indulging in childish partisan attacks. How out of touch can he get?"
Obama also chastised Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex., the ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Barton apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward recently for what he called a "shakedown" by the White House in pressing BP to create a $20 billion compensation fund for victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Barton was forced by his own party to apologize for his apology.
"(Barton)...in a hearing, says to them 'I apologize that the president strong-armed you, Chicago-style,'" Obama said. "'I think this is a real tragedy that you are being made to compensate these folks.' Really? I mean, when I heard that I was - I said, 'No, he didn't say that. No, he didn't say that.' But he did. Because they (Republicans) don't think in terms of representing ordinary folks. That's not their orientation."