Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Obama Still Whistling in the Dark

If there were a color-coded warning system for the national mood, it would be turning deep grey, verging on black.

Approval ratings for Congress and the President hit long-time lows.

Karl Rove publicly prays for new GOP candidates to emerge as Rick Perry revs up a hoof-in-mouth campaign that Bill Clinton calls “crazy” but nonetheless jumps ahead in a poll of Republican preferences.

And a respected economist, predicting a double-dip recession, asks, “Is capitalism doomed?”

For those of us who have lived through a Great Depression, a World War, McCarthyism, Vietnam and George W. Bush, it’s tempting to say that this, too, shall pass—-as it undoubtedly will—-but the depth and duration of America’s current distress is hard to foresee.

Yet beyond understanding is the failure of a President who came to power with promises of Change, Hope and a “Yes We Can” attitude to rise to the challenges with more than tepid determination, doing the equivalent of “leading from behind.”

Compare his current bus tour with Harry Truman’s whistle stop campaign in 1948. Truman gave a “do nothing, good for nothing” Congress hell while Obama, faced with a hyperactive body wrecking the economy, is giving voters little more than a shrug and excuses for inaction.

Asked by an Iowa voter why he doesn’t take “a harder negotiating stance” against Republican intransigence, the President responds:

“Now, I know that people would like to say ‘Well, just do something to get these guys under control,’ You don’t want to reward unreasonableness. Look, I get that. But sometimes you’ve got to make choices in order to do what’s best for the country at that particular moment.”

In Minnesota, he tells a crowd, “Everybody cannot get 100 percent of what they want. Now, for those of you who are married, there is an analogy here. I basically let Michelle have 90 percent of what she wants. But, at a certain point, I have to draw the line and say, ‘Give me my little 10 percent.’”

With all due respect to Michelle Obama, that’s the equivalent of giving the schoolyard bully your lunch money and new blazer, hoping he’ll treat you better tomorrow.

What’s even more frustrating about Presidential passivity is evidence that the “Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic.”

In the face of all this, as the GOP tries to sort out the loonies who would oppose him next year, is the question of why Barack Obama doesn’t seize the moment to regain control of the national dialogue.

Why is he now promising to deliver a major jobs speech to jump-start the economy after Labor Day? Tomorrow wouldn't be too soon. Whistling in the dark is just not a policy.

Update: As only 26 percent of Americans back the President’s handling of the economy, he is advised to fall back on FDR’s advice during the Great Depression, “Above all, try something.”

If Republicans want to block bold proposals, at the very least put them in the position of having to persuade voters that doing nothing is the best cure for a double-dip recession.

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