BOTH SIDES NOW : Did Obama's Talks Move Opinion on Race and Growth?

President Barack Obama delivers an address on economics at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.
President Barack Obama delivers an address on economics at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Obama called for new spending on infrastructure and education to help grow the middle class. (Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)

By Mark Green

One week, two big talks from our Educator-in-Chief: "I'm Trayvon" and "Middle-Out vs. Trickle-Down" economics. Despite Carlos Danger + Baby George, can Obama's reframing change minds long-term? Erickson and Reagan also debate: is Snowden winning in Congress but not in court?


With Erick Erickson of Fox/ and Ron Reagan of MSNBC facing off, this show swings from substance to soap opera. Using TR's bully pulpit after a fling at bipartisanship, the president lays down his markers on race and growth. Because race is not yet "a pigment of our imagination," he explains to both camps how the other thinks... and tries to change the leading economic/political narrative from focusing on federal deficits to public investments.

Will his words this week be remembered long after he exits 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?

On Obama's Knox College Speech. Since President Reagan, the dominating economic narrative has been, counter-intuitively, that the bottom 99% benefit if you first give more money to the richest 1%. Obama instead is making the case that a "winner-take-all" system with income inequality is not the solution but the problem b/c consumer spending creates demand for more jobs.

Ron cops to having heard the phrase "trickle down" but supports Obama's paradigm: "Obama didn't use the bully pulpit enough in his first term but now will. He has a winning argument since, remember, President Reagan spent his way out of that recession, though it was largely military spending ... Look at how austerity is failing everywhere."

Did the failures of Bush43 and Romneyomics kill off GOP economic orthodoxy? Erick thinks that Obama's speech was a ho-hum "mission statement" but agrees that W "bungled Conservatism with No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, bailouts ... We need a fresh vision." Host: what about Bush's tax cut policies and the CBO study saying that ending the Sequester would produce 1.6 million more jobs? EE: "Those cuts favored big business more than wealthy people ... And when the public sector grows, the private sector shrinks."

Obama's series of economic talks also tried to pin the tail on the elephant -- i.e., the GOP is either distracting us with "phony scandals" or obstructing good ideas. Erick emphasizes that the IRS scandal IS a real one while Ron ridicules Republican insistence on defunding Obamacare despite congressional votes and Supreme Court decision.

How does this standoff end? Erick shrewdly guesses that around the debt-ceiling deadline late September, Obama will give in on the Keystone Pipeline...allowing the GOP to declare a victory even as they give up pushing for more severe domestic cuts while the deficit is falling by half.

(No, "middle out" economics didn't change the paradigm this week. But over the next 5-10 years, it is likely to supplant the a-historical view that cutting spending in a slow economy is desirable or even plausible. Keynes vs. Laffer never was a fair fight.)

On Obama's "I'm Trayvon" Remarks. It wasn't the Emancipation or "We Shall Overcome," but will Obama's remarks last Friday on race be among the most memorable ever presidentially on that subject?

Erick breaks with the O'Reilly-Hannity assertion that the only issue here is scary young black men committing crime, at a rate "10 times more than Hispanic and whites combined" (O'Reilly). "I'm glad that the president raised the issue" of how many in the white community racially profile young black men for the way they look and dress... and how the latter are both victims and perpetrators of crime." Consensus alert: Ron agrees, noting that "young, poor-white crime is probably worse too. I don't doubt that if Trayvon was 21, had the gun, and shot a threatening Zimmerman [in a Stand-Your-Ground state], he'd be convicted of murder."

Given the huge racial gap over the verdict, was Obama politically courageous to so bluntly and personally address the entire issue? "He's probably the only politician who could," responds Ron.

On Weiner Redux. Was his latest admission about cybersex after his congressional resignation "disqualifying or merely disgraceful?"

While the national and NYC media were unanimous that there's no third bite at the Big Apple, Last Word regular Ari Melber rejects the sanctimony of the New York Times and others, arguing that private, consensual sexual misconduct is the most important or only disqualifying issue. It wasn't for FDR, JFK, Clinton ... The panel, however, explains why Weiner is not them and his why his repeated lying means he can run but can't hide from voters' wrath.

OK... but how do his sexual peccadilloes compare to the financial scandal of Gov. Bob McDonnell who apologized for taking six figures in private gifts from a friend with interests before his state? The panel agrees that was as bad or worse since it involved a sitting official and that he should resign. But since there are no graphic pictures and fewer headlines, McDonnell will probably hold onto office in Virginia though he won't be hearing "Hail to the Chief" any time soon.

On the House NSA Vote. For the first time in a long time, if not ever, the House floor heard more mentions of the Fourth Amendment than the Second. Representatives Amash and Conyers were allowed to introduce their bill to essentially block funding for NSA metadata problems that snooped on citizens not yet under suspicion for terrorism. They lost 217-205 in a non-party line vote. Ron is heartened: yes the third-party servers of communications firms have this information, "but unlike the government, they can't arrest you!"

Since this was just the first vote on what will be a probably altered NSA mandate, how can the U.S. try to prosecute a person when he may be effectively vindicated by the Congress? Erick too worries about intrusive NSA programs but, lawyerly, believes that DoJ prosecute Snowden for disclosures that specifically helped China and Russia.

And then, with a salacious lilt perhaps left over from the last segment, Erick adds, "Don't forget that Russian spy Anna Chapman on-line proposed to marry him!"

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.

You can follow him on Twitter @markjgreen

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