State Senator Obama has some sage advice for the current President, as he officially kicks off his re-election campaign.
When he was a rising star in the Democratic Party in 2004, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama had the opportunity to give the Weekly Democratic Address at the end of June.
President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign was in full swing, and he was traveling around the country, much as President Obama is doing now, talking to voters, rallying his base, and raising money.
After almost three years of tough economic times with the bear market and the War on Terror, Bush was optimistic about the future of the country: the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent and falling, and the stock market was on the upswing.
State Senator Obama, who at the time was campaigning for a seat in the U.S. Senate, felt that Bush was going heavy on the hope:
For the past few weeks, President Bush and members of his Administration have traveled the nation to celebrate recent, improved economic statistics.
Well, I've been traveling, too. …I've heard from people who say it's way too early to claim victory when it comes to our economy.
For most Americans, the health of our economy is measured in a different and more personal way: If I lose my job, where will I find one that pays as well and offers real benefits? …
It's not just those who have lost their jobs who are struggling. It's also those who have jobs, and have suffered through years where their wages haven't increased, their benefits have diminished and their health care costs have soared.
Eight years later, President Obama is facing his own re-election campaign, as the economy struggles to gain a foothold. Unemployment is at 8.2 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that 14.5 percent of the labor force is unemployed or underemployed.
But the candidate who ran his campaign on hope is more optimistic about the future of the country than he was in 2004.
In his State of the Union address in January, the president insisted, "America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about."
By March 1, recovery seemed to be the official theme of 2012. The New York Times’ front page featured a story entitled "President Offers Theme of Nation Seeing Comeback":
President Obama has a new message: America has gotten its groove back. …
"The Republicans are running on a gloom and doom vision of American decline," said Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign. Mr. Obama believes that "if we promote policies that invest in the middle class, American will out-innovate and out-educate the rest of the world," Mr. LaBolt said.
This year’s college graduates are facing job market in which half of them will either not be able to find a job that utilizes their skills or not be able to find a job at all.
But the theme of a country on the upswing has stuck. During a March 9 campaign trip to Texas, Obama told supporters, "The recovery is accelerating. America is coming back." Acknowledging the hardships many still face, he said, "We're obviously still in the midst of a lot of struggles for a lot of people but the trend lines are good."
In 2004, State Senator Obama was more cautious in his optimism:
America needs a strong, vibrant middle class. And until middle class families get their heads above water, we can't declare victory.
The President attacks those who make this point as "pessimists."
In the last quarter of 2011, 22.8 percent of home mortgages were underwater, as middle class homeowners continue to struggle with negative equity.
"The President may feel it’s time to celebrate. But my travels tell me that we have a lot of work to do to restore economic security for every American," said Senator Obama in 2004.
(Thanks to reader Scott from Youngblood news for the tip on the 2004 speech.)