Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Washington Charade Week

These are days of political pantomime in which nothing is happening, but the Obama Administration is busy manufacturing reassuring pictures:

*The President poses with the elected leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, who preside over impotent, corrupt regimes, and expresses confidence: “We meet today as three sovereign nations joined by a common goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and its extremist allies in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to prevent their ability to operate in either country in the future." The news on the ground tells a different story.

*Results of the bank stress tests are leaked in a flood of contradictory interpretations that inspire the stock market to rise as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner hires a key counselor--to help him persuade the public that the sky is not falling. It may not be, but we have no real way of knowing.

*The White House tells us a line-by-line scouring of the budget is saving $17 billion, but the fine print is that the amount is peanuts and, even so, is not likely to survive special-interest resistance.

Barack Obama promised us an end to "politics as usual"--theatrics and trivia to cover up what is unknown and unknowable--but we are still not ready for a president to tell us he doesn't know exactly what to do about nuclear weapons in a country threatened by murderous extremists or how to get the banks to stop stuffing their balance sheets and start lending again or how to control budget deficits in a time when government spending is needed to give the economy mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

So we get the usual charades and photo ops. The bottom line may be depressing, but at least we have a relatively smart government looking for answers.

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