Thursday, February 05, 2009

Overusing Obama

There is a tipping point somewhere in Barack Obama's media blitz on behalf of the stimulus bill that could damage his presidency beyond the immediate struggle to get legislation on his desk by next week.

The President is staking his hard-won mandate on a complicated, extravagant answer to national fear with an iffy argument: "Let's not make the perfect the enemy of the essential. Let's show people all over our country who are looking for leadership in this difficult time that we are equal to the task."

Welcoming Republican participation and serving them oatmeal cookies, Obama is offering himself in the role of a peacemaking warrior, and opinion polls are beginning to reflect that contradiction with doubts about rolling the dice for almost $1 trillion when no one is sure of what will and won't work in reviving the economy.

Moreover, the new President, as unBushlike as he can be, is nevertheless trying to persuade a public that is still reeling from the White House certitude that took us into Iraq. Change has come to Washington, but skepticism about political leadership is far from dead.

The encouraging news today is that, as the President continues his media offensive, there are bipartisan Senate efforts to examine the bill line by line and pare down and strip away dubious measures.

"So we have a choice to make," the President writes in a Washington Post OpEd. "We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time."

The rhetoric is inspiring, but voters will be forgiven for wanting this time to read all the fine print before going into battle. The Obama who campaigned on the issue of Change should expect no less.

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