After Criticism for CBC Speech Is Obama Going Soft?
Loop 21 analyzes Obama's post-CBC speeches and find he's being much kinder with his words
When Obama addressed attendees of the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Legislative Conference's Phoenix Awards Gala on September 24, he was mostly sympathetic with the crowd, but ended in a challenging tone, telling the black Congress members to "Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying." Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- such as Rep. Maxine Waters who’ve voiced displeasure with his leadership -- were unhappy. Others in the media said Obama's challenge was unfair. In the president's defense, press secretary Jay Carney said people took those comments the wrong way.
Obama has since addressed other constituencies pressing them to pass his jobs bill. The question is, did he strike the same tone with those groups as he did with his black legislative audience?
Loop 21 analyzed three of Obama’s speeches along with an "open for questions" town hall, which all focused on the American Jobs Act. Obama addressed four constituencies – Latino, LGBTQ, Hollywood liberals, and middle-class families. From those, we identified four significantly different tones of Obama, and whether any of them were the same “stop complaining” tone struck with the CBC.
DNC Events in West Hollywood & Los Angeles , CA - September 27, 2011
Tone: Humble and self-deprecating; navel-gazing at some points
Analysis: Despite the occasional rant from Matt Damon, Obama is normally at ease around Hollywood, once joking that actors were "core constituency." Obama’s tone toward the crowd, which included Eva Longoria (Obama said to Gov. Jerry Brown who was seated next to her, "How'd you get that seat?"), seemed to concede the possibility that they be moving on, taking a serious look at voting Republicans. He sounded like Drake on "Marvin's Room" telling the crowd, "I'm just sayin', you can do better. And I'll start hatin' only if you make me." He acknowledged supporting him would be tough "because it’s not going to be as sexy. It’s not going to be as new. I’m grayer, I'm all dinged up. And those old posters everybody has got in their closet they’re all dog-eared and faded." In the CBC speech, Obama did a lot of sympathizing with the black crowd. This was the reverse: he wanted his liberal base's sympathy.
Did he tell them to stop complaining? No. Instead of telling Hollywood, or Matt Damon, to quit grumbling, he ended by suggesting that his difficulties with them were the stuff of good movie scripts. "If [stories] were just smooth the whole way through," Obama said to a sold out crowd, "not only is it a pretty dull movie but it doesn’t reflect our experience."
Abraham Lincoln High School, Denver, CO - September 27, 2011
Tone: You need a warrior; I'm your man.
Analysis: In many of his "pass this jobs bill" speeches, Obama has addressed head on that what he's asking for in tax reform. Raising taxes on the wealthy is being classified by Republicans as "class warfare," and he's said in many speeches that he accepts that label if it means bringing in more revenue. But in Denver, Obama said it with his chest. He told the crowd, "If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that." Ever since the 2010 rise of the Tea Party took, people have been describing Obama in more wimpy than "warrior" terms. Now Obama is using fighting words, almost as if he realizes that his re-election will hinge on the votes of the middle class! “If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that."
Did he tell them to stop complaining? No. Obama’s final call to the proletariat was, "We are not a people who sit back and wait for things to happen. We make things happen. We’re Americans. We are tougher than the times that we live in, and we are bigger than the politics we’ve been seeing out of Washington. We write our own destiny!"
Open Roundtable with Latino Voters - September 28, 2011
Tone: You’ve met the enemy, and they are Republicans.
Analysis: Obama went on the record here emphasizing to the Latino audience that it was the Republican Party that’s been obstructing progress. In no other speech since his jobs bill proposal has he emphasized this so much. Said Obama, "The vast majority of Democrats are supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, but given that the Republicans control the House of Representatives and that we need 60 votes in the Senate, our key approach is trying to push Republicans to get back to where they were only a few years ago." Somewhat pandering, Obama basically warned Latinos that Republicans were not their friends.
Did he tell them to stop complaining? No. This, despite many Latino voters who’ve challenged him about immigration reform policies, including the fact he's had more immigrants deported than in George W. Bush's two terms combined.
Human Rights Campaign 15th Annual National Dinner - October 1, 2011
Tone: Glowing, gloating and "big"-headed
Analysis: The Human Rights Campaign is the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the U.S. This is one constituency that's had a lot to smile about since Obama took office given the ending of "don't ask, don't tell" military policy, and Obama directing the Department of Justice not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act anymore. Obama seemed all too aware of these victories in his speech, all while rhetorically winking at Lady Gaga in the audience, arguably the most popular person on the planet. He then took the risky move, of framing his speech in terms of "small America" and "big America" -- code words for "small government" and "big government." At a time when polls say the majority of Americans are concerned government is growing too big, Obama challenged that by saying "We don’t believe in a small America. ... We believe in a big America -- a tolerant America, a just America, an equal America -- that values the service of every patriot." This was a bold and direct challenge not only to those who believe government should shrink, and also a subtle signal that the smaller government is, the less capable it will be to protect the rights and liberties of citizens.
Did he tell them to stop complaining? No. Obama ended on a happy note saying that the gay rights movement is "the story of America" and that he’s "confident we can continue to write another chapter together."