If President Barack Obama loses in November, he may have no one but himself to blame. The "Strother Martin Syndrome" has marred the president's first term.
In the movie "Cool Hand Luke," Martin was famous for saying: "What we've got here is a failure to communicate."
There is a difference between being a great orator and an effective communicator. The president excels in the former, but, in my view, has been lacking in the latter category. In doing so, he gives away a tremendous advantage integral to the office he holds.
The obvious area where the president is most vulnerable is the economy. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll indicates that only 32 percent feel the country is headed in the right direction. Though the president has not overseen an economy like former President Bill Clinton circa 1999, he does have a story that bears repeating.
When the president assumed office, the gross domestic product was declining at a rate of 8.9 percent. After reaching a high of 3.8 percent, the current increase of 1.5 percent may not warrant singing "Happy Days are Here Again," but compared to what was inherited where realistically should the GDP be right now?
According to the Center for Automotive Research, the bailout initiated by former President George W. Bush and continued by Obama has 1.45 million people working as a direct result of those policies.
Moreover, Michigan's unemployment level is at the lowest in three years, and General Motors has returned to its place as the world's largest automaker.
The president must also challenge the narrative that tax cuts, routinely touted as the Holy Grail of conservative orthodoxy, in their current state, are an unsuccessful policy.
When the first round of tax cuts was enacted in 2001, unemployment was at roughly 4.5 percent; as of this writing, it is at 8.2 percent. This is an ongoing policy that increases the deficit, but fails to stimulate as advertised.
Upon assuming office, the president altered several accounting gimmicks used by the previous administration to make the deficit appear smaller.
The president demanded accurate accounting of Medicare, an alternative minimum tax that was indexed for inflation, along with a line item in the federal budget for the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such honest bookkeeping will increase the deficit $2.7 trillion by 2019.
Is this tax-and-spend socialism or the fiscally and morally responsible thing to do?
Political consultants are paid to win elections, so it is understandable that the flip-flops by the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney along with his association with Bain Capital and the failure to release more of his tax returns would be an effective attack.
Negative campaigning is a double-edged sword, driving up the negatives of both candidates. And the president's likability rating has consistently ranked higher than his job approval.
But economics is a social science based largely on how the consumer feels.
The country is adding private-sector jobs, but it's not adding them quickly enough to keep pace with demand. The measures the president took ended the recession sooner than many economist had predicted. And since spring 2010 the economy has expanded.
The president's policies have created more that 4 million jobs in the last 27 months, which, according to Bureau of Labor Statics, exceeds the previous seven years. Void of any context, it is easy to malign the current economy. But the president, given the hand he was dealt, has an economic story to tell.
It's not that the president hasn't discussed these issues, but with less than 100 days before the election, he needs to do so loudly and often. Otherwise, Strother Martin may be right again.
Contact Byron Williams at 510-208-6417 or firstname.lastname@example.org.