By Ryan Ekvall / Wisconsin Reporter
MILWAUKEE – For the 15,000 people who turned out to Milwaukee’s Marcus Amphitheater to hear President Obama’s campaign speech, it must have felt like stepping into a time machine – back to late September 2008.
Four years later, Obama offered the same kind of high-arching rhetoric, painting a similar picture of how the nation could escape a dismal economy. But this time, the Democratic candidate is the incumbent, and many of the shortcomings and failures that plague the nation happened on Obama’s watch.
Those 15,000 faithful, many of whom lined up for as long as 12 hours to greet the president’s first appearance in the Battleground Badger State in more than seven months, welcomed him with the kind of admiration found somewhere between encountering the Beatles and the Second Coming.
They didn’t seem to care that this candidate hammered home the same talking points he’s been shouting for the past several months: Osama bin Laden’s dead and nearly every American has – or will have – access to health care.
“And so four years ago I promised many of you that I’d end the war in Iraq -- and we did,” he said. “I said we’d wind down the war in Afghanistan — and we are. And as a new tower rises in New York, we have gone after al Qaeda and we got bin Laden.”
He did play current events.
The president touched on the murder of a U.S. diplomat in Libya.
“But as we were reminded this past week, this is a world still full of serious threats,” Obama said. We’re going to have to work to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We’re going to have to make sure that not only our diplomatic posts are safe, but we go after folks who threaten or try to kill Americans.”
The President recently began a $70,000 advertisement campaign in Pakistan condemning the anti-Islamic “Innocence of Muslims” movie he blames for the murder of diplomats, to curb the increase of violence in the Middle East. The night before Obama spoke in Milwaukee, deadly anti-US riots broke out in Pakistan. In Cairo, on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., rioters tore down the American flag and replaced it with a flag tied to al-Qaeda.
The president said he would put the money saved from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, although the wars have been largely unfunded, to infrastructure. Shovel-ready jobs?
“Let’s put Americans back to work, using the savings that we obtain, to rebuild our roads and our bridges and our schools, and lay broadband lines into rural communities. Let’s do some nation-building right here,” he said in a city where some 62,000 people were out of work in July.
In 2008, Obama said, “To create new jobs, we’ll not only invest in rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, and our outdated electricity grid – we’ll strengthen the auto industry that built the middle class in this country.”
U.S. unemployment has remained well above 8 percent over the course of Obama’s term, the broader U-6 measure, or alternative measures of the underemployed, between 14 and 17 percent.
Obama also ripped Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s plan for economic development in similar fashion Obama’s critiques of his 2008 opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s economic plans.
“Now my opponent, he believes in top-down economics,” Obama said, to a smattering of boos. “Don’t boo – vote,” the incumbent advised. He then ripped Romney’s call for tax cuts for the wealthy and tied the Republican candidate to former President George W. Bush, saying it wouldn’t help erase the deficit and that “we tried that for a decade, and it didn’t work then and it won’t work now.”
Romney is campaigning on cutting marginal tax rates permanently by 20 percent across the board.
Step into the Obama Wayback Machine:
“In last night’s debate, John McCain and I each had the chance to make the case for change – to talk about what we would do differently from the last eight years when it comes to lifting our middle-class, growing our economy, and restoring our prosperity. But all we heard from Sen. McCain was more of the same Bush economics that led us to this point,” Obama said in 2008.
The poverty rate, the number of Americans on food stamps, federal debt and deficit, have all risen since Obama took office, even as financial markets are reaching their 2008 peaks.
Obama and his surrogates have constantly repeated this bit of spin: the U.S. economy on the president’s watch has created 4.5 million jobs.
Not so much.
The number is more like 300,000 net nonfarm payroll jobs, according to CNN. If you take into account shrinking government jobs, there are about 400,000 fewer people on the job today than in January 2009.
Back into the Wayback Machine:
“If I am president, I will invest $15 billion a year in renewable sources of energy to create 5 million new, green jobs over the next decade – jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. Jobs building solar panels and wind turbines and fuel-efficient cars. Jobs that will help us end our dependence on oil from Middle East dictators,” Obama said in 2008.
A lot has happened since, including the failure of Solyndra and some other “green jobs” bad bets by the Obama administration. The U.S. Department of Energy signed off on $535 million in loan guarantees to the solar-panel manufacturer, which filed for bankruptcy last year.
On Saturday, the president repeated his energy policy – producing oil at home, as well as massive investments in wind and solar companies to decrease dependence on foreign oil, even though imports of oil have decreased since their peak in 2005 and the largest chunk of it comes from Canada.
“Because I’m not fighting to create Democratic or Republican jobs; I’m fighting to create American jobs,” he said. “I’m not fighting to improve schools in red states or blue states; I’m improving schools in the United States of America. I don’t believe in just looking out for workers or businesses, or rich or poor, or 53 percent or 47 percent; I’m going to look out for everybody.”
The crowd went wild, just as they did during the hope and change tour in 2008.
Romney’s campaign jumped all over Obama’s Milwaukee stop, asserting the incumbent returned to Wisconsin with little magic and a bag full of empty promises.
“Four years after promising Wisconsinites he would deliver change to Washington, President Obama is back in the state with a different message – he can’t deliver the change he promised,” Romney Wisconsin spokesman Ben Sparks said in a statement. The candidate of ‘yes, we can’ has become the president of ‘no, I can’t.’
Obama wasn’t the only one playing fast and loose with the facts Saturday.
Danny O’Driscoll, Wisconsin state manager, Romney for President, sent out a memo to the press titled “President Obama’s Wisconsin Problem,” in advance of the president’s campaign visit.
O’Driscoll noted that in 2008, Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points – “no surprise, since Democrats have won Wisconsin in every presidential election since 1984.”
Here’s where the campaign appears to head off the fact ranch.
“President Obama has yet to give an explanation for this dramatic decrease in support. But the fact is that voters are disappointed that he has not lived up to the promises he made four years ago.”
That’s not what the Marquette Law School poll out this past week suggests. The poll, conducted earlier this month, found Obama beating Romney by 14 percentage points. While Marquette contracted pollster Charles Franklin acknowledged the sample size included more Democrats among likely voters, the skew would still put Obama up by 8 points, well above the 2.5 percent margin of error.
Another Swing State Poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University, the New York Times and CBS News shows Obama with a 6-point lead in Wisconsin.
Contact Ekvall at firstname.lastname@example.org