Richard Reeves

The Final Days of a Bad Campaign

WASHINGTON -- Beneath his cool exterior, there is passion and a trash-talking crudeness hidden in President Obama.

For weeks, even before the first debate, he worried that Mitt Romney might defeat him in November. What bothered him is that he reckons the economy will be bouncing back and strong about two years into his second term. But if Romney is president, he will take credit for the hard work and intelligence Obama marshaled to brake the decline in the country's economy and start the slow road back to recovery. That makes the cool one crazy.

Two weeks ago, according to Mike Allen of Politico.com, as the president ended a 45-minute interview with Rolling Stone, one of the magazine's editors, Eric Bates, told Obama that his 6-year-old daughter wanted to tell Obama something. She said, "Tell him: You can do it."

"You know, kids have good instincts," Obama said. "They look at the other guy and say, 'Well, that's a bullshitter, I can tell.'"

That's an understatement, though I doubt a 6-year-old girl uses such language. The Republican nominee should leave his brain to science. How does he hold so many contradictory thoughts in one head? How can he tell so many lies, even after he has been called out for the untruths? Perhaps he's the cool one. Perhaps he believes that if you are rich you can say anything you damn well please -- look at Donald Trump -- and if you say it often enough, it rings of truth. Some people will believe it.

There is great frustration on the Obama team. There is also a good deal of internal politics between the president's old Chicago team and newer acolytes from the Washington establishment. Washington is, in a word, panicked. Another word might be "hysteria." The folks inside the Beltway cannot understand why Romney appears to be a viable alternative, going from "severe conservative" to "moderate Mitt." And in the hearts of Obama's people and the somewhat colder hearts of movement conservatives, beginning with Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, there is almost absolute certainty that the Republican candidate will revert to the tender mercies of the Republican right wing, their only wing, and probably toss in another war or two, even if we have to fight with horses and bayonets.

I believe Obama will win this election. He deserves it. In a four-page endorsement to be published next week, The New Yorker magazine lays out the case for Obama better than he has. One of the key sections reads:

"Obama succeeded George W. Bush, a two-term president whose misbegotten legacy, measured in the money it squandered and the misery it inflicted, has become only more evident with time. Bush left behind an America in dire condition and with a degraded reputation. On Inauguration Day, the United States was in a downward financial spiral brought on by predatory lending, legally sanctioned greed and pyramid schemes, an economic policy geared to the priorities and the comforts of what soon came to be called 'the 1 percent,' and deregulation that began before the Bush presidency.

"In 2008 alone, more than 2 1/2 million jobs were lost -- up to three-quarters of a million jobs a month. The gross domestic product was shrinking at a rate of 9 percent. Housing prices collapsed. Credit markets collapsed. The stock market collapsed -- and, with it, the retirement prospects of millions. Foreclosures and evictions were ubiquitous; whole neighborhoods and towns emptied. The automobile industry appeared to be headed for bankruptcy. Banks as large as Lehman Brothers were dead, and other banks were foundering.

"It was a crisis of historic dimensions and global ramifications. However skillful the management in Washington, the slump was bound to last longer than any since the Great Depression."

And then the endorsement goes on to the wars of George W. Bush and what they cost all of us. It is a bad time to be president. The New Yorker quoted the satirical paper The Onion, which published this headline when Obama was first elected: "BLACK MAN GIVEN NATION'S WORST JOB."

So it is, but he's done a pretty good job in those terrible circumstances.

More like Richard Reeves