After President Barack Obama’s all-important jobs speech Thursday, drop in on CNN about 9 p.m.
You’re likely to see Kasim Reed in a conversation with Piers Morgan, driving home the points that Obama didn’t. Or couldn’t.
Oh, you’ll see the mayor of Atlanta chide Obama — or rather, the people around him — and offer some gentle counsel. “I think the most important thing for the president to remember is that folks elect you to win for them,” Reed said in an interview Wednesday.
The mayor offered these bullet points of advice to the White House:
– Don’t be afraid to brag. “I believe that the White House retreated a bit from the extraordinary things that they’ve done, and frankly got a little exhausted from explaining,” Reed said. Saving the auto industry, creating 2.4 million jobs, extending health care to millions and such.
– “Then you have to explain to people what you’re going to do for them in the future. You’ve got to talk about how you’re going to make sure unemployment benefits are extended, and you’re going to fight for them and get it done no matter what it takes,” Reed said.
– Don’t be too reasonable with unreasonable people, especially during “small-ball” exchanges like those that surrounded the debt-ceiling debate. But don’t refer to your opponents as Republicans. “He has to make this about people who are in the way of the success of the United States of America,” the mayor said. “There hasn’t been a consistent argument that [they’re] putting America’s international prestige at risk through this extraordinarily vicious infighting.”
– Those shovel-ready projects that were funded with stimulus money and still haven’t produced? Twist some arms and get them started. “I don’t believe it’s a smart approach for the White House to simply tell folks who got about $175 billion that it’s OK for you to take your time,” Reed said.
– And remember the Port of Savannah and the millions it needs for dredging. “He has to have a very plain message on why we can’t allow America’s infrastructure to fall apart,” Reed said.
But the mayor of Atlanta has become more than a cheerleader for the Obama campaign — especially given this week’s Washington Post/ABC News poll, which showed two-thirds of Democrats dissatisfied with the direction of the country.
Reed has become the fellow with his finger on a big, red button embossed with the words “Don’t Panic.” And he’s pushing it in some very public places — wherever Democrats, particularly African-Americans, express frustration or worry.
Last week, in an interview on MSNBC, Reed took aim at African-American leaders who complained that blacks had not benefited from an Obama administration.
Déjà vu had to have kicked in. During a tight race for mayor of Atlanta that depended on racial coalitions, Reed struggled to make sure that he wasn’t perceived as the “black” candidate — at the same time he had to maintain his unquestioned strength among an African-American base.
Two years later, Reed is Obama’s emissary, helping America’s first black president over the same hurdle. “We do need to acknowledge that it is more difficult for this president, because of the historical nature of his presidency, to have the kind of conversation that many in our community would like to have focused solely on African-American people,” the mayor told Chuck Todd.
Reed continued in much the same vein on Wednesday. First of all, to say that African-Americans are suffering more than others during this downturn is simply stating the obvious, he said. “We were always going to suffer disproportionately.”
“The more important argument is, who is your alternative? [African-American critics] are on a path where they’re going to weaken this president in a way that makes him vulnerable in a general election against Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney or Rick Perry,” he said.
But there are alternatives. Oddly enough, the search again involves a bit of déjà vu and Atlanta’s ’09 race for mayor. In the runoff, Reed defeated Mary Norwood, a white neighborhood activist.
A third candidate in the race was Lisa Borders, then president of the Atlanta City Council. Borders, an African-American, attempted to chart a middle course between black and white, between Democratic and Republican. She was squeezed out.
In addition to being president of the Grady Health Foundation, Borders has become a co-founder of No Labels, a group intended to give voice to those frustrated with Washington gridlock. She was at a New York event on Tuesday that featured Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and his Lysistrata-like idea.
No campaign funds for any politician until they straighten up. Cut ’em off.
Borders says No Labels has been trying to prop up the Gang of Six effort on deficit reduction, pushed by U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Mark Warner, D-Va.
Yet she remains a supporter of Obama, despite his imperfections. “He needs a better PR machine. Kasim can help him there, for sure,” Borders said.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider