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Late Night: Winning the Bridge to the 21st-Century Future!

Caption contest, anyone? (Official White House photo, taken today)

… and meanwhile, amid the news of the day, the real business of politics grinds on (via Politico, who else):

President Barack Obama’s 2012 fundraising team has begun nailing down major cash commitments from top donors during a coast-to-coast “listening” tour — the surest sign to date that the vaunted Obama money machine is back in business.

… So far, the embryonic operation is being run out of DNC’s cramped headquarters near the Capitol — and [ex-Obama staffer Jim] Messina’s overnight bag. That will change sometime in the next three weeks, when Obama OKs the creation of his new campaign committee.

Indeed, the president attended a fundraiser (though not his own) in Florida today, where he made sure to regurgitate his already-annoying reelection campaign slogan:

Obama fired up a crowd of loyalists at a Miami hotel by insisting he wants to find common ground with Republicans in a budget fight but is not willing to cut into what he considers needed investments in education, science and technology.

“I’m willing to cut any spending we can’t afford,” he said. “I’m not willing to cut the basic investments we need for winning the future.

The obsession with this nauseatingly bland phrase is a sure sign not only that Obama and his inner circle are looking ahead to 2012, but also that they’ve been studying Bill Clinton’s old playbook.  It was Clinton in 1996, after all, who gave us “Building a bridge to the 21st century,” a similarly vapid slogan with a shared goal — positioning a politically damaged president as optimistic, forward-looking, and rising above mundane day-to-day issues.  (The thinking in some circles, you see, is that it’s almost always the more optimistic presidential candidate who wins the election.)

But Clinton gave us something else, too — a combative dimension.  Battling his generation’s GOP takeover of Congress (and a threatened government shutdown), he drew a specific line in the sand against cuts to spending on Medicare, Medicaid, the environment, and education… issues where, as now, the public stood behind the Democratic agenda.  And he bluntly said, in public and in private, that he would stake his presidency on not allowing the Republicans to undermine those programs.

Anyone heard anything like that from Obama yet?  Granted, an outright showdown over spending priorities hasn’t quite arrived yet, so there’s still time for Barack to get more detailed than defending an amorphous notion like “the basic investments we need for winning the future.

So I’m sure he’s just waiting for the proper moment to make his stand.  It’ll probably happen right after he finally comes out swinging in favor of the public option for health insurance.

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Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (