The President is poor-mouthing his prospects in Wednesday night’s debate.
“Governor Romney is a good debater,” he tells a Las Vegas crowd. “I’m just okay.”
Sadly, behind the fake modesty is an unexpressed truth: Barack Obama, with characteristic caution, will almost certainly skirt the heart of darkness underlying this election.
Let me do it for him. Either before the debate or early in it, this should be said:
“The choice is ostensibly whether Governor Romney or I lead the lead the nation for the next four years, but voters must see that decision in the light of what has happened to America in the past four years.
“The Republican party, or the aberration it now is, has devoted four years, as its Senate leader predicted, to making me a one-term president with a Congressional cohort voting as a bloc against every attempt to help the nation overcome economic adversity and, in the process, creating its own disasters, such as needlessly lowering America’s credit rating.
“Despite that, we have saved Detroit, created new jobs and put America on the road to economic recovery. What more might we have done without mindless opposition?
“Great men, the conventional wisdom holds, stand on the shoulders of those who came before them. On whose shoulders does Governor Romney stand?
“Those of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner and the Tea Party newcomers who have tied government’s hands into making legislative obstruction the hallmark of their tenure?
“Based on the debates that brought him the nomination, are they those of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain whom he had to outdo in demagoguery and irrationality to get here?
“As we debate details of issues and press Governor Romney for precisely what he proposes to do with the ‘Trust me’ blank check he is asking voters to give him, who will be the cosigners if he became President?
“Those who have spent years freezing America’s assets in the quest to recover and rebuild? What guarantee can he tender that they will suddenly acquire more rationality and wisdom in his tenure than they showed in mine?
“This election is not just about the two men, making the best case for their records and beliefs. It’s about the kind of contentious but collaborative government that nurtured and sustained America for centuries or a cartoon version of it that could take us who-knows-where.”
Barack Obama may be too cautious to make this case so bluntly, although Bill Clinton has used his new-found popularity in trying to do so.