A “secret retreat” this summer for senior Obama administration staffers signals that they realize the economy will still be in awful shape when voters decide next year whether to grant the president a second term. The Weekly Standard‘s William Kristol reacts to a TIME report in which presidential historian Michael Beschloss suggested that Obama could try to follow the lead of two previous presidents who won re-election during trying times: “FDR and Reagan argued that the country, though in pain, was improving and that their opponents, anchored in past failures, would make things worse.”
Kristol suggests the analogy doesn’t quite work:
When FDR took office in March of 1933, unemployment, it’s estimated, was running at about 25 percent. In November 1936, it was down to about 17 percent. GDP growth during FDR’s first term seems to have run at about 7 percent per year.
Under Reagan, unemployment first went up from 7.5 percent figure in January 1981, peaking at 10.8 percent at the end of 1982. In the last two years of his first term, it declined rapidly, reaching 7.2 percent on Election Day 1984. GDP growth in Reagan’s first term averaged about 3 percent a year.
When Barack Obama took over, unemployment stood at 7.8 percent. It’s now 9.1 percent. And GDP growth under Obama has so far been running at about 1 percent a year.
The bottom line: Obama’s economic record is unlikely to look anything like that of Roosevelt’s or Reagan’s.
But if Michael Beschloss’s analogy provided a lift for the Obama team, that’s great. They undoubtedly needed a little cheering up. The rest of us can look forward to being cheered up in November 2012 by the change in the Oval Office we’ve been waiting for.