In a testy and, at-times, impassioned speech in Cleveland, President Obama firmly dismissed the "status quo" solutions Republicans have been proposing and took aim at House Minority Leader John Boehner, whose philosophy he distilled down to this: he wants to "cut more taxes for millionaires and cut more rules for corporations." These are the types of policies, Obama contended, that will inevitably lead to "stagnant growth, eroding competitiveness, and a shrinking middle class."
The combative stance the president assumed during the speech was no accident, and signaled that the White House and Democrats have begun to sharpen their verbal barbs in the eight weeks before election day. Many pundits also viewed it as the last nail in the coffin of the president's bipartisan "obsession", paving the way for future showdowns between an increasingly powerful John Boehner and a Democratic party largely on the defensive. Evaluating his partisan posture, critics are uncertain how effective the "Hope and Change" president can be at broadsiding his opponents.
He Has Given Up on Bipartisanship concedes Jonathan Cohn at The New Republic, at least for the "foreseeable" future. "No, this isn't the first time Obama has attacked Republicans. But, as far as I can tell, this argument is more emphatic than it has been at any time since the presidential campaign." He particularly notes where the president states that the GOP is holding the middle class tax cuts "hostage" as an example of the heightened rhetoric.
- Initial Reaction: 'He's About to Really Gut Punch Republicans' observes Kevin Drum, who thought it was "too bad" that the president eventually pulled his punches at "the last second." Still, the Mother Jones blogger found the president's frequent attacks on Boehner by name an interesting development: "is this part of a broader strategy to nationalize the election around Boehner's neck? I don't think this would change the course of the election or anything, but if it's the latter I'll bet it's a good idea. Boehner is well tanned and has a great TV voice, but he comes across (to me, anyway) as robotic and evasive, sort of a junior grade Mitt Romney. If Democrats put Boehner front and center ('Do you trust this man to be Speaker of the House?') it might damage the Republican brand a bit."
- A Poignant One-Two Punch cheers The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, glad that Obama didn't go out of his way to give his detractors the benefit of the doubt: "the president's speech suggested that, at least for now, he's tired of unrequited outreach. This was a speech in which Obama talked about Republicans the way Republicans talk about him -- only his case had the advantage of being true."
- He Just 'Recycled' His 2008 Campaign contends Philip Klein at The American Spectator. He seemed to invoke his presidential campaign at every turn, before turning, "to attacking House Minority Leader John Boehner -- essentially a stand-in for Bush. Yet this is an odd choice politically given that a new poll shows most Americans don't even know who Boehner is, let alone have an opinion. Even rhetorically, Obama recycled from his campaign -- talking about overcoming cynicism and framing a choice between hope and fear."
- There's Shades of Clinton-Gingrich in the president's speech, notes Frank James at NPR. Boehner's name was used no less than eight times and, "appeared to be taking a page from his Democratic Oval Office predecessor, Bill Clinton." James then describes the 90's battle between then House speaker Gingrich and the former president: "After Republicans took control of the House in 1994, Clinton made Newt Gingrich, then the House speaker, the personification of Republican policies he opposed. That the more voters saw of Gingrich, the less they seemed to like him, helped Clinton in his effort to have voters choose him and his policies over the House speaker...We'll have to wait and see if in coming weeks Obama sticks with the latest approach of calling Boehner out by name."
- This Is Not How Obama 'Usually Operates' asserts Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo: "In the 2008 campaign, then-candidate Obama was always reluctant to criticize his opponents by name. This was true during both the Democratic primary, and the general election against Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)." This year Democrats need to "distinguish" themselves from Republicans, hence the change in rhetorical tone.