Without laughing, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday’s World News Tonight advanced the White House hope that Barack Obama will be seen as Ronald Reagan was in 1987, as a President who rescued the economy and was rewarded by voters.
Opining on the President’s political mission in his State of the Union speech, Stephanopoulos said the goal was for Obama to convince the public that the economic “recovery is sustainable.... and it’s because of the work that he did over the last six years.” When the public credited Reagan for the boom in the 1980s, Stephanopoulos reminded, “he was able to lock in gains for Republicans for a generation....That’s President Obama’s job tonight.”
Needless to say, the economic recovery in the 1980s, fueled by Reagan’s across-the-board tax cuts, was far stronger than the one under Obama, which has been saddled with higher tax rates, stifling regulation, and a mounting national debt. And by 1987, Reagan's economic policies had been validated by a 49-state re-election landslide; Obama's have just been repudiated by the stinging loss of Democratic control in the Senate.
For Obama’s “Reagan” strategy to have any hope, it will depend on media commentators like Stephanopoulos who will reliably promote the idea without citing the evidence to show how silly the comparison is.
Setting up the segment, anchor David Muir showed photos of Obama addressing Congress with mostly dark hair in 2009, and with mostly gray hair a few days ago. There are probably many Americans who aren't President who've similarly aged over the past six years.
Here’s the video and transcript of the relevant portion of the January 20 edition of ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir:
Anchor DAVID MUIR: Let’s get right to George Stephanopoulos in our Washington bureau tonight. And George, this is the President’s sixth State of the Union, his next to last, and I wanted to show everyone at home the before and after. This is the President in 2009, the President in his first State of the Union. And this is the President just last week; the job of the president always takes a toll. Those before and afters, so telling. So, George, what’s the bottom line tonight, two years left — what does he have to do?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Two years left, he has to do a lot like Ronald Reagan did when he was going into the seventh year of his presidency — Ronald Reagan a bit older than President Obama, looked even older. But what he was able to do was convince the country that his economic program, Reaganomics, worked. As Jon Karl just said right there, that’s exactly what President Obama has to do tonight: convince people this recovery is sustainable, that it can be broadened out to everyone, that everyone can share in this bounty, and it’s because of the work that he did over the last six years. Now, Ronald Reagan was able to make that sell. He came into this speech [in 1987] with a 50% approval rating, as well. But he was able to lock in gains for Republicans for a generation by convincing them that his program worked. That’s President Obama’s job tonight.
MUIR: All right, perhaps revisiting an old play book. George Stephanopoulos, thanks.