Newsweek’s Alter Cheers Obama Bringing ‘Poetry’ Back to Campaign, ‘Saved’ America from Great Depression

Appearing as a guest on Wednesday’s The Ed Show on MSNBC, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter applauded President Obama for bringing "poetry" back into the campaign as he cited former New York Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo’s famous saying about campaigning "in poetry" and governing "in prose." Alter: "Look, he (Obama) overlearned Mario Cuomo's famous lesson. Cuomo said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. And he took that too much to heart. He's been governing too much in prose. Finally, he's beginning to bring some of the poetry back, the poetry that moves people and inspires people. And it's about time."

The Newsweek columnist went on to credit President Obama with preventing another Great Depression after host Ed Schultz lamented that Obama is not receiving credit for recent gains in the stock market. Alter: "He saved them. He saved their fortunes. We were headed for a depression. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month when he took over. If we'd stayed on pace, we would have had another Great Depression in late 2009. He saved them."

Picking up on an earlier rant by Schultz against West Virginia Republican Senate nominee John Raese for proposing a repeal of the minimum wage to stimulate job growth, Alter also claimed that a minimum wage reduction would create a depression and lead to a Third World standard of living in America: "Now, after the New Deal, Democrats and Republican Presidents, you know, Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, all of them accepted that, there were certain things that we settled in this country in the 1930s about a decent a decent floor so that we didn't become the Third World."

He continued: "Now, they want us, I don't know, do they want us to go down to 40 cents an hour? What are they talking about? On top of that – and this is something that doesn't get talked about enough – this would be so awful for the economy. We would create a deflationary spiral when wages go down too much, as they would if we got rid of the minimum wage, you send the economy back into another recession or even a depression."

Below is a complete transcript of the segment with Alter from the Wednesday, October 13, The Ed Show on MSNBC:

ED SCHULTZ: For more, let’s bring in Jonathan Alter, national affairs columnist for Newsweek, and MSNBC political analyst. Jonathan, let's talk about, if we can, the President's talk about the American dream. I mean, this is somewhat a new move for the President, is it not? He's starting to talk in terms of "think about what your future is going to be like." What do you think?

JONATHAN ALTER, NEWSWEEK: He's getting back into campaign mode, which is good and long overdue. Look, he overlearned Mario Cuomo's famous lesson. Cuomo said you campaign in poetry and govern in prose. And he took that too much to heart. He's been governing too much in prose. Finally, he's beginning to bring some of the poetry back, the poetry that moves people and inspires people. And it's about time. What we've been talking about so far on this show, Ed, is an effort by Republicans to repeal the New Deal. Let's be clear about what we're talking about. The minimum wage goes back to 1938.

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

ALTER: Now, after the New Deal, Democrats and Republican Presidents, you know, Dwight Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, all of them accepted that, there were certain things that we settled in this country in the 1930s about a decent-

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

ALTER: -a decent floor so that we didn't become the Third World. Now, they want us, I don't know, do they want us to go down to 40 cents an hour? What are they talking about? On top of that – and this is something that doesn't get talked about enough – this would be so awful for the economy. We would create a deflationary spiral when wages go down too much, as they would if we got rid of the minimum wage, you send the economy back into another recession or even a depression.

SCHULTZ: I want to talk to you about the record number of dollars in bonuses that's going to be going to Wall Street, $144 billion. That's a record high this year. And if you look at the stock market, in March of '09, it was just over 6,000. Today it's over 11,000. Does President Obama get any credit at all? Does his economic team get any credit at all for what has happened? I mean, these folks have made billions of dollars with Obama – with the President's economy and his framework to save the economy. But, yet, it gets very little conversation.

ALTER: He saved them. He saved their fortunes. We were headed for a depression. We were losing 750,000 jobs a month when he took over. If we’d stayed on pace, we would have had another Great Depression in late 2009. He saved them. Now, one of the great things about the stock market being higher, even if folks aren't in the stock market that much, is it's a leading indicator. It's the market saying that the economy is getting much better than people recognize.

SCHULTZ: Yet, the poverty rate, yet, the poverty rate is at 14.3 percent.

ALTER: Yes, it is. Yes, it is.

SCHULTZ: That's the highest since 1994. It's the divided highway.

ALTER: I'm not minimizing that, but it's important to remember that if, you know, Obama's fate and the fate of the Democrats over the next two years, it's too late to do anything about this election, but is on bringing that unemployment rate down and what the market is saying, there's not a direct connection between higher stock prices and more jobs.

SCHULTZ: Yeah.

ALTER: But what it is, is it's a vision of the future which is usually accurate and suggests that 2011, better days are ahead.

SCHULTZ: Jonathan Alter, always a pleasure.

ALTER: Thanks, Ed.

SCHULTZ: Great book, by the way.

ALTER: Thank you.