‘Focusing’ is not a policy

‘FOCUSING’ IS NOT A POLICY…. Way back in January, with Democrats’ electoral standing faltering, political analyst Charlie Cook insisted Democrats “made a colossal miscalculation” by failing to focus all of their efforts on the economy. “Although no one can fairly accuse Obama and his party’s leaders of ignoring the economy, they certainly haven’t focused on it like a laser beam,” Cook said.

Last night, Cook told Charlie Rose the same thing — if only Dems had “focused” more on the economy, they wouldn’t be in such a mess. I can only assume pundits will be repeating this line, over and over again, for the next several months.

Paul Krugman noted this morning how silly this is.

Yes, Democrats would be in better shape if the economy were in better shape. Duh.

So when you say Obama should have focused more, what policies are you talking about? A bigger stimulus? As far as I can tell, almost no pundits are saying that. So what other concrete policies do they have in mind? I have never gotten an answer.

The notion seems to be that if Obama had spent the past 20 months going around with furrowed brow, saying, “I’m focused on the economy”, this would have (a) somehow created jobs (b) made people feel better about 9.6 percent unemployment.

The problem is, “focusing” is not a policy.

Immediately upon taking office, President Obama began crafting an economic recovery package, and succeeded in getting one passed. Despite hysterical shrieks — conservatives still believe tax cuts and spending cuts would have been more effective, reality notwithstanding — the stimulus effort worked in improving the economy and preventing a depression. Among credible, independent economists, this isn’t even controversial anymore.

For Cook and others, Obama and congressional Dems should have pivoted from focusing on the economy to … focusing some more on the economy. With what? More focus, apparently.

What, specifically, were Democrats supposed to do? Wait for photographers to take pictures of the president and his team staring at charts, demonstrating their “focus”? Even if the White House had presented a series of additional stimulus measures, they would have been blocked by congressional Republicans anyway.

I don’t doubt the explanation to explain the midterms will be common, but it shouldn’t be taken seriously.