Mar 27, 2009 2 Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Obama is flunking economics
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
SAN DIEGO, California — Welcome to March Madness on the Potomac.
Many Americans are so emotionally invested in the Obama presidency that they consider it too historic to fail.
They won’t tolerate any criticism of the president or his administration, finding it easier to simply attack critics. And whatever goes wrong that they can’t defend or deflect, they just blame on George W. Bush.
But to many of the rest of us, it’s clear that President Obama is flunking economics. He is trying to do too much at once, and so he is not doing any of it well. He vows to cut the federal deficit while proposing an avalanche of new spending that will — says the Congressional Budget Office — increase the national debt by as much as $9.3 trillion over the next decade.
Here’s the really bad news, though. No matter what else goes awry, Obama’s strong suits are supposed to be communications and marketing. Yet, this week we learned that this isn’t the case when he has to communicate and market his message on economics.
It doesn’t help matters much that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner seems too small for his chair. When he needs to inspire confidence, Geithner does the opposite. Whenever he speaks and comes up short on specifics, the Dow plummets. And when that happens, the Obama supporters don’t care and insist that Wall Street is part of the problem and thus can’t recognize the solution.
This week, after learning of the Treasury Department’s plan to help banks unload so-called toxic assets, the market bounced back a bit. And now the Obama supporters are singing a different tune.
But here’s the big question: When Wall Street smiles on a government bailout, is it a good or bad thing for average Americans? It depends on how much is being given away and who has to pay the bill.
This much is indisputable: The administration’s economic plan is so sweeping, and our financial situation so precarious, that the administration needs nothing less than a master salesman for its economic agenda. Clearly, Geithner isn’t up to the job. The sooner he steps aside, the better it will be for the administration.
According to the pundits, Obama is supposed to pick up the slack and seal the deals that Geithner can’t seem to close. However, anyone who tuned into this week’s press conference has to wonder whether the president hasn’t lost his touch. The popular narrative from conservatives — that Obama stumbles when he is off the teleprompter — is becoming more believable.
When asked by a reporter about whether his budget would blow up the deficit and stick future generations with the bill, Obama got defensive and turned his answer into a slam against Republicans and then obfuscated his way through the rest of the question.
When CNN’s Ed Henry asked the president why it took him so long to publicly condemn the more than $150 million in AIG bonuses, as opposed to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who turned the issue into a national outrage, Obama appeared to take a swipe at Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, by saying: “I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.”
Or maybe it’s just that Obama realized that his administration wasn’t guilt-free in the AIG debacle. There are many unanswered questions. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, told CNN last week that someone at the Treasury Department told him to put in the language in the bailout bill allowing for executive bonuses.
If he’s telling the truth (and really who knows, given that CNN caught Dodd being untruthful on the subject earlier) we need to know who in the Obama administration ordered the loophole. And that person needs to be removed.
This week’s news conference wasn’t exactly Obama’s finest hour. Still, it wasn’t as bad as making a mocking reference to the Special Olympics on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” or joking about the recession on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
How is it possible that someone who was so likeable and so inspiring while running for president could, day by day, be so unlikable and so uninspiring as president?
It’s become more common for people to say that they want President Obama to fail. I don’t want him to fail. I want him to succeed. I just don’t see how we get there from here.
Flashback alert (DAMN! I do love the internet!):
No racism in the presidential election?
By Ruben Navarrette Jr.
***Wed May 14, 2008***
SAN DIEGO, California — In claiming victory in West Virginia last night, Hillary Clinton reiterated her last best argument as to why she should be the Democratic nominee: because only she can win in November.
Don’t confuse that with what Clinton said in a debate just a few weeks ago about how she was confident that either she or her opponent could win in November.
How’s that for chutzpah? She’s arguing that the same person who couldn’t win enough states in the spring against Barack Obama can win enough states in the fall against John McCain.
At least in West Virginia, Clinton chose her words more carefully than she did last week when she blurted out to USA Today that “Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again” and how whites who had not completed college were supporting her.
Clinton sounded less like George Washington and more like George Wallace. Imagine a presidential primary where, after more than 16 months, almost two dozen debates, hundreds of speeches, millions of dollars, and countless chicken dinners, the rationale for electing someone boils down to this: Vote for me. I’m white. I can win because other whites will vote for me.
Why, this could be the new affirmative action. Whatever happened to merit?
Clinton’s message in West Virginia was smoother. “I’m winning Catholic voters and Hispanic voters,” she told supporters, “and blue-collar workers and seniors, the kind of people that Sen. McCain will be fighting for in the general election.”
Meanwhile, some white Americans are turning themselves inside out to come up with excuses for why they’re not supporting Obama. It seems like just yesterday that these folks were arguing there is no racism in the immigration debate, and now they’re insisting there is no racism in the presidential election.
Some want to know why it isn’t racist when 70 percent of African-Americans vote for Obama but it is when 70 percent of whites vote against him.
The answer has to do with history. Over the decades, black Americans have had plenty of opportunities to vote for white people for president. And they have done so. But this is the first time that white Americans have a chance to vote for an African-American with a shot at the presidency. And what are they doing?
Many are responding quite well. Obama won the votes of many, to borrow a phrase, “hardworking white Americans,” in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. But, elsewhere, as Obama said in a recent interview, people may need to get their head around the concept of an African-American even seeking the presidency, let alone winning it.
That’s understandable. There are places in this country where white Americans are still raised to think of black Americans as inferior. And then comes someone like Obama who has performed off the charts — from Harvard Law School to the U.S. Senate and now, possibly, on to the White House. It’s going to take some time to get used to all that, especially for people who never thought they’d see the day that an African-American would be elected president.
But understand this: They had better hurry up. That day may soon be here.