As our country tries to stop the bleeding economically and pull ourselves out of this recession, we are left with two key figures for leadership. Both rookies in the world of national politics and neither are proving to be ready for prime time.
President Obama and Treasury Secretary Geithner are gifts to the Republican party. Thanks to continued stumbling and stammering in dealing with the recession, Republicans have found their mojo, long ago lost during the Bush years.
Secretary Geithner was tragically inept in delivering economic strategy in his first solo news conference. As the administration's voice for recovery, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Blessed or cursed with youthful looks, he appeared to be robotic looking left and right from teleprompter screen to teleprompter screen. When did cabinet members take to reading from teleprompters? It was embarrassing to watch.
We were told, as a skeptic American public, that this tax cheat was the only person in the entire country that could figure out the way forward to economic recovery. Never mind that he was a part of the first bank/Wall Street bailout during the last administration on the NY Federal Reserve. He's a Wall Street guy. He presented no plan at all. After all the hype, there was nothing but hot air.
Holding a press conference to announce that a plan is being worked out, or that a plan is to come, is not exactly what the American public expected.
President Obama is blaming the tax cuts of former President Bush as an integral part of our economic woes. According to IBDeditorials.com, "It's ideological politics at its worst. (It's worth noting that while Obama was trashing supply-siders on Monday night, Scott Rasmussen's latest poll showed 62% of U.S. voters wanting the stimulus plan to include more tax cuts and less government spending.)" "Obama's attack on supply-side economics would rule out the successful Kennedy-Johnson tax cuts that spurred growth in the 1960's and the Reagan tax cuts that ignited growth in the 1980's. Even Bill Clinton cut the capital-gains tax. And George W. Bush's tax cuts helped generate a six-year economic expansion before the oil shock and credit crunch took hold."
The stock market plunged 400 points after the Geithner performance fiasco.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the recession should bottom out and begin recovery at the end of 2009. That is with all things as they are now. Today the numbers released show that unemployment numbers have lessened a bit and that retail sales are up. Constant talk of an impending revisit to the great depression is not helpful. Talking down the economy to increase fear and to push through a dream spending bill for the liberals in Washington, D.C. is borderline criminal. It is dishonest and it is wrong.
In The Telegraph, Toby Harnden writes that President Obama's novice standing is showing. "In the early days of his presidency, Mr. Obama has seemed passive and uncertain. Instead of drawing up his own economic stimulus bill, he sub-contracted the job to Democrats on Capitol Hill. They opted to spend money on projects for contraception and beautifying the National Mall - their doorstep - and gave Republicans plenty of ammunition against the package." "He attempted to charm Republican centrists with his own personality and the trappings of the White House by inviting them over for cocktails and a Super Bowl party. It didn't work. Of 219 Republicans on Capitol Hill, only three voted for the bill. Introducing a $500,000 pay cap for some Wall Street executives was empty - and possibly counter-productive - populism."
"Governing, as Mr. Obama is finding out, is not like an election campaign. Mr. Bush's failures will give him some leeway and his transformative appeal remains potent. But making decisions and operating the levers of power is something completely new to him. And it shows."
The blundering approach to this spending bill have given Republicans an infusion of enthusiasm. Not simply the party of 'no', as the Democrats were during the Bush years, alternatives have been offered to the spending bill in Congress. Republicans have been roundly shut out of all of the behind closed doors hashing out of the bill. Republican amendments have been voted down along party lines. "We won" is the battle cry for the Democrats. Even the President has taken to making that victorious claim. He will soon realize it is not a winning tactic.
The events of the last two weeks point to a glaring conclusion before the American public - the Oval Office is not the place for on the job training.