The blunt talk, about how he will deal with Republicans in upcoming months, highlights lessons learned in the debt ceiling negotiations of summer. There's no mention of a mutual will to compromise, or coming together for the good of the country, or both sides giving a little, or there being good ideas on both sides. It's about leverage, or rather, a set of blunt instruments:
LAURA HOLLINGSWORTH: But particularly, sir, if you were granted a second term, how do you implode this partisan gridlock that has gripped Washington and Congress and basically our entire political structure right now?Equally unvarnished was his assessment of Romney. It's been debated ad nauseum whether the Obama campaign should paint Romney as a flip-flopper or as an extremist. Here Obama effortlessly combines the two (as I always thought the campaign should) -- and brings home both she shape-shifting and the extremism Romney's pledged to with far more punch than usual:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Rick, let me answer you short term and long term. In the short term, the good news is that there’s going to be a forcing mechanism to deal with what is the central ideological argument in Washington right now, and that is: How much government do we have and how do we pay for it?
So when you combine the Bush tax cuts expiring, the sequester in place, the commitment of both myself and my opponent -- at least Governor Romney claims that he wants to reduce the deficit -- but we’re going to be in a position where I believe in the first six months we are going to solve that big piece of business.
It will probably be messy. It won’t be pleasant. But I am absolutely confident that we can get what is the equivalent of the grand bargain that essentially I’ve been offering to the Republicans for a very long time, which is $2.50 worth of cuts for every dollar in spending, and work to reduce the costs of our health care programs.
And we can easily meet -- “easily” is the wrong word -- we can credibly meet the target that the Bowles-Simpson Commission established of $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and even more in the out-years, and we can stabilize our deficit-to-GDP ratio in a way that is really going to be a good foundation for long-term growth. Now, once we get that done, that takes a huge piece of business off the table.
The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community. And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I've cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.
So I just want to contrast with what happens if Mitt Romney is elected. I know that he likes to talk about his Massachusetts record. The truth is there really were two Mitt Romneys. There was the Mitt Romney who initially got elected, passed Obamacare, and was interested in being the governor of Massachusetts. After his second year, it was the Mitt Romney who was running for president and abandoned all his previous positions.Likewise, while there's nothing new except an intriguing detail or two in Obama's outline of his own plans and vision, his conceptual tying together of the investments he advocates, and contrast with a Romney-led America that fails to make those investments, is also more sweeping and forceful than on the trail. Below, the summation following a quick litany of the harm that would be wrought by undoing the ACA, the 'executive' dream act, the middle- and lower class tax breaks:
And the problem you’ve seen in this campaign is he’s made commitments -- his first day he’s got to introduce a bill to repeal Obamacare. And that's a commitment he cannot back off of. That is a huge, messy fight. His first day in office, he has to make some commitments in rolling back things like the Consumer Finance Protection Board we put in place on Wall Street reform. His budget -- the Ryan budget -- there’s no way that, if he’s president, he can avoid having a showdown on a budget that his running mate introduced, or a variation of it, because he’s committed to cutting spending by 20 percent across the board on discretionary and increasing defense spending by $2 trillion.
But the question I think for voters, in addition to what’s going to be good for me and my family tomorrow, is, what’s going to be good for America five years from now or 10 years from now. And if we have not built an education system that works and makes sure that college is affordable, if we have not won the race for future energy technologies, if we’re slashing funding for things like basic research, if we are not rebuilding our infrastructure, then 5, 10 years from now we are going to be a weaker nation. And that has huge consequences.One final point, tacking back to the beginning of the interview, in which Obama outlined his plans for creating jobs: the submerged outline of the American Jobs Act is more clearly visible than it is in his usual stump speech. Maybe I've just missed it, but it seems that when Obama talks about investing the money saved by winding down the war in Afghanistan at home, he's got his infrastructure investments in mind:
Now, obviously, if somebody believes that the government has been the problem and will remain the problem, and if we just strip down government to defense spending and Social Security and some watered-down version of Medicare and Medicaid, and we shouldn’t be doing anything else, then obviously Mitt Romney is the candidate. There’s no indication, based on either historical evidence or what’s happening around the world, that that’s the recipe for long-term sustainable economic growth.
And finally, using some of the war savings to put people back to work on infrastructure -- roads, bridges. We’ve fallen behind in that area. And we can -- this deferred maintenance, we can put people to work, back, right now, and at the same time make sure that our economy is more competitive over the long term.
Also from the American Jobs Act, the energy retrofit (which I believe he had focused exclusively on schools):
So that’s sort of a summary of the things I want to accomplish to create jobs and economic growth. Obviously, there are other items on the agenda. We need to get immigration reform done, and I’m fully committed to doing that. I think there’s still more work on the energy efficiency side that we can do -- helping to retrofit our buildings, schools, hospitals, so that they’re energy efficient -- because if we achieved efficiencies at the level of, let’s say, Japan, we could actually cut our power bill by about 20-25 percent, and that would have the added benefit of taking a whole bunch of carbon out of the atmosphere.I must add, in passing, that on both barackobama.com and whitehouse.gov he has scaled the outline of his plans down to a really shameful degree. And while I don't expect much from the campaign glossy new booklet, I can't find hide nor hair of it on either site.
This interview, too, is no 'basement tape'; it's another performance. But it offers a more detailed, impassioned and coherent vision for the next four years than any other document I've come across.