President Obama gave a speech today in Ohio on the economy, contrasting his vision for the future with Mitt Romney's. The speech, on the whole, is a pretty good one -- it lays out exactly what the president believes and his political goals, and it also accurately portrays the beliefs and goals of his opponent. But what struck me was a repeated theme within the speech which Obama should start using more often.
Here is the first example, from a section where the president is describing the Republican economic plan:
Governor Romney and his allies in Congress believe deeply in the theory that we tried during the last decade -- the theory that the best way to grow the economy is from the top down. So they maintain that if we eliminate most regulations, if we cut taxes by trillions of dollars, if we strip down government to national security and a few other basic functions, then the power of businesses to create jobs and prosperity will be unleashed, and that will automatically benefit us all.
That's what they believe. This is their economic plan. It has been placed before Congress. Governor Romney has given speeches about it, and it's on his website. So if they win the election, their agenda will be simple and straightforward. They have spelled it out: They promise to roll back regulations on banks and polluters, on insurance companies and oil companies. They'll roll back regulations designed to protect consumers and workers. They promise to not only keep all of the Bush tax cuts in place, but add another $5 trillion in tax cuts on top of that.
Now, an independent study says that about 70 percent of this new, $5 trillion tax cut would go to folks making over $200,000 a year. And folks making over a million dollars a year would get an average tax cut of about 25 percent.
Now, this is not my opinion. This is not political spin. This is precisely what they have proposed.
Obama returns to the idea again, after laying out more of the Romney/Republican economic plan:
This is not spin. This is not my opinion. These are facts. This is what they're presenting as their plan. This is their vision. There is nothing new -- just what Bill Clinton has called the same ideas they've tried before, except on steroids.
Later, Obama even gets a dig in at the media, for their complete failure to tell the truth rather than present everything as a "he said/she said" false dichotomy:
Now, I'm looking forward to the press following up and making sure that you know I'm not exaggerating.
Obama struck this theme repeatedly, and (to my ears, at least) it is a powerful point to make: there are facts -- even in political debates -- and they can indeed be separated from partisan spin. Obama was careful to identify his "beliefs" (prefacing them with "I believe...") as a contrast to making his point about facts, but he also hammered home this major point when appropriate:
I believe their approach is wrong. And I'm not alone. I have not seen a single independent analysis that says my opponent's economic plan would actually reduce the deficit. Not one. Even analysts who may agree with parts of his economic theory don't believe that his plan would create more jobs in the short term. They don't claim his plan would help folks looking for work right now.
In fact, just the other week, one economist from Moody's said the following about Mr. Romney's plan -- and I'm quoting here -- "On net, all of these policies would do more harm in the short term. If we implemented all of his policies, it would push us deeper into recession and make the recovery slower."
That's not my spin. That's not my opinion. That's what independent economic analysis says.
As someone who scrutinizes political speech for good ways to frame issues, I have to say I'm impressed with this formula. Obama should start using it in every speech. "This is fact. This is not spin. This is not opinion." Sooner or later, the media will take notice, especially if Romney rises to this bait in some form or another. Mitt Romney has been making patently false statements out on the campaign trail, and so far the mainstream media hasn't done much in the way of calling him on it and challenging the "facts" he cites. Which is likely why the Obama team is hitting back in such a fashion.
Obama is positioning himself as the candidate in the race who tells the truth to the American public, and contrasting himself with Romney's unsupportable spin. Obama should keep up this pressure, and sprinkle every speech he makes with such "this is not political spin" statements. It is an effective rhetorical tool for him to use, and I would encourage his re-election team to use it as frequently as possible. Sooner or later, the media may even take notice.
-- Chris Weigant
Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant