Last week, I asked White House press secretary Robert Gibbs if President Obama would be mobilizing his millions of supporters to apply pressure on Congress to pass the stimulus legislation. Gibbs did not give a direct answer. And it has seemed that Obama and his aides have not been eager to use their list of 13 million supporters to flex their political muscle.
This past weekend, Organizing for America, the Obama campaign's spin-off, held house meetings across the country regarding the stimulus package, and it sent a video of Obama to these sessions and to everyone on its mega-mailing list.
Here's the full video:
The presentation began with Obama saying, "Hi everybody." He then thanked the viewers for all the "hard work" they did during the campaign and for "staying involved in the task of remaking this nation." Referring to recent job loss numbers, he noted that "sometimes Washington is slow to get the news." He touted the stimulus bill moving through Congress and said, "If we fail to pass it promptly, our economy will fall oone trillion dollars short of what it is capable of producing this year." He maintained that the stimulus measure would lead to the upgrading of schools and laboratories, the modernization of the health care system, the development of a smart grid, and the rebuilding of roads and levees. He sold the bill well, noting that there will be plenty of transparency and accountability provisions in the legislation: "This is your democracy. And as I said throughout the campaign, change never begins from the top down. It begins from the bottom up. It begins with each and every one of you." But what did Obama want each and every one his video-viewers to do to bring about this change?
Not much, really. He said:
I hope you will talk about the importance of this plan with your friends and neighbors. Because we cannot wait to take action and turn this recession around. We've inherited a terrible mess. But I know that we have the capacity to rise to this moment and keep the promise of America alive in our time--if the American people demand that we do.
And that was it. He did not direct his followers to call members of the House and Senate and explicitly demand passage of the bill. Instead, he asked them to discuss it and support it in a more general manner.
Does Obama and his aides assume that their millions of backers will pick up on Obama's hint and start pressuring members of Congress? Might they be inching toward an explicit request? But why not make it plain and say, "We need your help. Go for it, now"? This situation reminds me of Abraham Lincoln's famous Civil War quote, "If General McClellan isn't going to us his army, I'd like to borrow it for a time." Obama has an army that put him in the White House. If the stimulus package is indeed his top priority, why not issue a call to arms?