On Day One
Submitted By Todd on March 22nd at 8:35pm
America, by storm.
A CHARMING visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed.The second Barack Obama is a politician. Inexperienced and way underqualified for the job he now holds, the leader Obama is struggling with the complexity of his responsibilities and the intensity of the moment. While America was ready for Barack, he was not ready for the Presidency.
Six weeks ago I wrote in this space that the country’s surge of populist rage could devour the president’s best-laid plans, including the essential Act II of the bank rescue, if he didn’t get in front of it. The occasion then was the Tom Daschle firestorm. The White House seemed utterly blindsided by the public’s revulsion at the moneyed insiders’ culture illuminated by Daschle’s post-Senate career. Yet last week’s events suggest that the administration learned nothing from that brush with disaster.The President has been in office for just a short time, and the natural defense offered in return for criticism is that it's early still - you have to give him time. This is true for many aspects of the job, to be sure. Someday, he will be an experienced politician, and perhaps, he'll become skillful at executing his responsibilities. For now, of course, the job of being Obama the President is something he's just not ready for. Which is why he was out in California last week, hiding from and pretending to be a victim of Washington - taking refuge in being Barack Obama, Super Star when the country was in desperate need of a leader.
What made Jon Stewart’s takedown of Jim Cramer resonate was less his specific brief against CNBC’s cheerleading for bad stocks than his larger indictment of the gaping economic inequality that defined the bubble. As Stewart said, there were “two markets” — the long-term market that Americans earnestly thought would sustain their 401(k)’s, and the fast-moving, short-term “real market” in the back room where high-rolling insiders wagered “giant piles of money” and brought down everyone with them.It is unusual for a president to take office under such dire circumstances, rendering the mistake of electing Obama all the more potent. How much damage will be done to the nation while he gets his on the job training? Will he squander his political capital pursuing things that are bad for the economy (tax increases, universal health care, cap & trade, etc) leaving him without the clout to lead the country to economic safety?
In his town-hall meeting in Costa Mesa, Calif., on Wednesday, he described the A.I.G. bonuses as merely a symptom of “a culture where people made enormous sums of money taking irresponsible risks that have now put the entire economy at risk.” But rhetoric won’t tamp down the anger out there, and neither will calculated displays of presidential “outrage.” We must have governance to match the message.The President sought to avoid being run over by runaway rage by playing one of the wronged rather than walking in a leader's shoes.
To get ahead of the anger, Obama must do what he has repeatedly promised but not always done: make everything about his economic policies transparent and hold every player accountable. His administration must start actually answering the questions that officials like Geithner and Summers routinely duck.Ironically, Obama's botched joke was likely more help than hurt. The President had the opportunity to defend against a misdemeanor charge, distracting the posse enough that he wasn't forced to answer to felony charges.
The “dirty little secret,” Obama told Leno on Thursday, is that “most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal.” An even dirtier secret is that a prime mover in keeping that stuff legal was (Obama economic adviser Larry) Summers, who helped torpedo the regulation of derivatives while in the Clinton administration. His mentor Robert Rubin, no less, wrote in his 2003 memoir that Summers underestimated how the risk of derivatives might multiply “under extraordinary circumstances.”Ironically, the honesty and openness that the President campaigned on would be a welcome antidote to the endless revelations of insiderism flowing out of our power structure. Were he willing to be honest with the American people rather than being fixated on expanding government to the tune of $1 trillion per year in deficit spending, being President wouldn't look so scary to the guy who, just six years ago, was still a state senator with no record of leadership.
The above quotes are from New York Times leftist, and Obama supporter, Frank Rich's Sunday column.