Sunday, February 8, 2009

Amateur Hour at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Last Tuesday President Obama was scheduled for an interview at the White House with Fox News. Instead, he and Michelle ducked out to read “The Moon Over Star” to students at an elementary school.

Why you might ask?

Because he said “We were just tired of being in the White House.”

Just two weeks into the Presidency, and President Obama is having trouble handling the pressure. Instead of evoking Lincoln, FDR, and JFK, President Obama should heed the wisdom of Harry Truman: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

What was the precipitating cause? Tom Daschle’s tax problems, not to mention Tim Geithner and Nancy Killifer. Lest us also not forget Governor Bill Richardson, who may have played “pay to play” like Blago. Obviously, the 7 page, 63 question form for prospective appointees failed.

Could it have also been Vice President Biden mocking Chief Justice Robert’s flub of the Oath at the inauguration of President Obama, followed by the VP’s own inability to even read the Oath correctly in swearing in Secretary of State Clinton. Could it be CIA Director nominee, Leon Panetta, contradicting himself on torture? Could it be campaign promises getting into the way of realism with Gitmo, Iraq withdrawal, and aggressive interrogation?

These are minor blips at the beginning of a new administration. By themselves they will not define his Presidency. However, they serve as a warning.

Two weeks into his Administration and he cannot even pick a Cabinet. His press aide, Robert Gibbs, is daily wearing the deer in the headlights look. Democrats used to call it “the Dan Quayle Look.” Even sooner than Presidents Carter and Clinton, Obama’s been rolled by the Congressional Democrats.

President Obama has to do something he’s never done before. Actually run an organization as the ultimate decision maker and make decisions. It’s often neither fun nor easy, but it must be done. Rhetoric only goes so far.

Campaigning is easy compared to governance. You must make decisions that affect 300 million Americans. Decisions will please some and anger others. If the decisions turn out to be wrong, or if enough are disaffected by them, the President’s popularity will tank.

President Obama recognizes that his success or failure as President will depend on keeping the American people safe from terrorist attacks and restoring the economy. In both situations, campaign rhetoric clash with political reality.

The President is confronting the same issues as President Bush on the economy: How to keep the banks from collapsing; How to restore the credit markets; How to revive housing? The options are limited.

He must also be bemoaning how President Bush adroitly kicked the can to him on Detroit. He must decide within a few weeks if Detroit will succeed or fail. Yet, he cannot politically let it fail, but probably even Lee Iacocca couldn’t save Chrysler today. The President owes too much to Michigan and the labor unions to pull the plug on them.

The Stimulus Bill displays a dangerous quality of the President; he hates to get involved. He claims the Bill as his own, but it was drafted and negotiated by Congress. His Office, the Presidency, the White House through Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was not heavily involved in the details. President Obama essentially claimed the House Bill as his own without even reading the details. Yet its success or failure may define his Presidency.

The Stimulus Bill reflects the failed practices of the past. Government spending failed in the Great Depression to bring us out. It failed in every major recession since then. It failed in Japan in the 1990’s. And it will fail now.

His recent appearances demanding passage indicate an ‘in your face” Presidency, but not “hands on.”

He even showed his frustration by taking on Rush Limbaugh. The President must be above such petty fights, which he cannot win. It only serves to belittle the president. Rush proudly wears the slings and arrows of President Obama as a badge of honor.

So much for the new tone in Washington! Everything the Democrats have heaped upon Republicans has come back to haunt them as all too many of their “distinguished” leaders turn out to be as capitalistic and greedy as Republicans. Potomac fever is non-partisan.

President Obama is clearly right in his statement that he won. He won the Presidency by a commanding margin, which neither Carter nor Clinton did. He carried with him overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate. Congress will support him on almost any bill right now.

With power, which can be fleeting, comes responsibility. So far we have seen the arrogance of the majority.

Don’t underestimate the President though. He has four major strengths.

First, he has the Bully Pulpit, and will utilize it regularly, unlike his predecessor.

Second, the public wants him to succeed with fixing the economy.

Third, 4 years is an eternity in politics.

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