Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Obama’s Honeymoon Ends in Turmoil and Errors

Every new president gets a honeymoon during which he is allowed time to adjust to the new job and the new surroundings, and since President Barack Obama inherited a substantial list of difficult problems, perhaps he ought to get some extra time to get things under control.


He campaigned as the person that despite his lack of experience had all the answers, the one who was best able to guide the country through its problems, and he created the clear idea through his appeals to hope and change that he could transcend politics, solve the nation’s problems, and restore America’s once-shining image around the world.

That’s a lot to promise, and a lot on which to be judged, even in the early days of your presidency.

Watching his performance in the first three weeks, it is obvious that Mr. Obama is overwhelmed by the circumstances in which he finds himself, and it’s not just the economic crisis that is causing him problems.

Perhaps he was lulled into a false sense of security by the smooth sailing of the campaign and the adulation of the millions who supported and, yes, worshipped him. One gets the distinct impression that he thought being president was going to be much easier than it has been, and as the reality of Washington politics has set in, it clearly is getting the better of our young president.

The candidate who was going to do away with pork-barrel spending, eschew lobbyists in his cabinet and staff, and end corruption has endorsed a pork-laden “stimulus” bill, hired lobbyists for staff and advisory positions and chosen some corrupt, or at least badly flawed, people for important positions.

He has had a terrible time finding people for his cabinet who don’t have a skeleton in their closet, having three of them withdraw prior to their Senate hearings with clouds over their heads, and one more gain Senate approval despite a significant tax avoidance problem.

He has angered both Democrats and the loyal media with some of his early decisions, such abandoning his pledge to impose a windfall profits tax on Big Oil even before being sworn in, and reaching out to Republicans to attract support for the “stimulus” bill by including some of their tax-cutting ideas.

Recently he has resorted to less-than-presidential behavior with his bitter criticism of his predecessor over the economy. The president said last week that "I found this deficit when I showed up. I found this national debt double wrapped in a big bow waiting for me as I stepped into the Oval Office," he said. But he should remember that the Democrat-controlled Congress had as much to do with the economic crisis as the administration, that part of the deficit is the first stimulus bill that was approved by the Democrat Congress, and that the stimulus bill he supports is nearly as big as the current year deficit.

Perhaps what has Mr. Obama so upset is that he is realizing how much easier it is to criticize from the outside than it is to fix things from the inside. The so-called stimulus package that he so strongly supports is a boondoggle disapproved of by a broad majority of Americans, and roundly opposed by Republicans, making a truly bi-partisan stimulus package a remote dream.

Faced with a widely negative view of the stimulus package, Mr. Obama, who in his inaugural address declared that "we have chosen hope over fear," has abandoned leadership to produce an acceptable stimulus bill in favor of fear-mongering the American people into supporting this foolish spending plan dressed up as a stimulus bill. "A failure to act, and act now, will turn crisis into a catastrophe,” he warned last week.

Perhaps this statement belies a profound failure to understand the subject. Of opponents of the horribly flawed stimulus bill, who said that we need stimulus, not spending, the President said, "What do you think a stimulus is? It’s spending — that's the whole point! Seriously.”

But all spending is not equal; there is spending to hand out cash to preferred special interests, and there is spending in a responsible fashion that will actually provide a stimulus. The president would do well to understand that.

Apparently determined to plunge ahead, he said voters “didn't vote for the status quo, they sent us here to bring change. We owe it to them to deliver." "This is not my assessment... This is the assessment of the best economists in the country," he said.

But not all of the “best economists” agree with that assessment, as more than 200 of them said publicly several days ago.

What responsible economist would recommend trying to emerge from a recession by funding a condom program, digital TV conversion coupons, STD prevention, child care subsidies, or just giving money out willy-nilly, all of which are features contained in the spending bill. These things may or may not be worthy of federal funding, but they have no business in a measure meant to stimulate the economy.

Given this rocky start, and the broad dissatisfaction he has stirred up, it is safe to say that the honeymoon is over.

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