On ‘doing fine’: Praising the economy when it stinks made more sense when Bush did it
There is no good way to explain the president's comment today that the "private sector is doing fine."
Yes, as Greg Sargent points out, the story of the comment overshadows the substantive point of Obama's remarks, which was an argument for spending to create more government jobs. The president was explicitly embracing the economic argument that Republicans are usually the ones itching to have, about the virtues of "big" government.
Possibly the best defense of Obama, which is not specific to these remarks, is that the "doing fine" comment is yet another illustration that he is not, and was never, the smooth orator his opponents have often made him out to be. (Republican operative Rick Wilson does not mean this as a compliment, but he's right, and Obama's people might well be saying the same thing right about now.)
Otherwise, saying the private sector is doing well is about as politically astute, and just as unspinnable, as John McCain's line during the last presidential campaign that "the fundamentals" of the economy were strong.
Clearly the fundamentals at the time weren't.
More than a year before McCain's "fundamentals," the president who had presided over the souring economy said the same thing, without suffering for it the way McCain did, or the way Obama may end up paying for what he said today.
The lesson, maybe: If you're thinking of vouching for the soundness of the economy when the economy is bad, you should make sure you're a lame duck before you actually do it.