Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Melanoma On The Presidency

There's one problem with being an agent of change: if you win, things have to actually change.

While the White House expressed confidence in Geithner, it was clearly placing the responsibility for how the matter was handled on his shoulders. Fresh details, meanwhile, pushed AIG outrage ever higher...The administration wouldn't be pleased to hear what Maria Panza-Villa, of Hillsboro, Ore., had to say. "Wasn't Obama supposed to fix this?"

Since Inauguration Day it's been obvious that Obama either never really wanted to "fix" this, or was convinced by administration insiders and/or top Democrats to lay off. When I wrote in early February that I was losing confidence in him because of his sudden lassitude on executive compensation, I got a few nasty emails about how I needed to give him a chance. But presidents can be made or broken by symbolic, high profile issues early in their first term -- especially when "change" was the overarching issue that brought them to office. Reagan's toughness during the air traffic controller's strike in his first year set the tone for the rest of his presidency. Expressing the union's strategy, a fired controller said, "I thought Reagan was bluffing."

It now looks like Obama was bluffing, and Wall Street has called him on it. Instead of simply hoping this`doesn't turn into a full-blown malignancy, he needs to excise it immediately. Unless Geithner can exculpate himself quickly and far more convincingly than he did with his taxes -- and since he's now seen as a Wall Street proxy with the key to the national coffers, it might not matter anyway -- he has to go. If Obama doesn't act swiftly to change public perception, he risks forfeiting to Republicans the raison d’être for his presidency before it has a chance to get off the ground.

9 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm an avid Obama supporter, but I've been thinking these same thoughts. A disconnect is occuring between the rhetoric and the action on the issue of Wall Street's looting the nation. His "anger" is always seems calculated as a needed response to national outrage, and therefore comes off as disengenuous.

My take is that he's such a cerebral, big issue guy, he risks not seeing the sky darken with locusts because he's dreaming of the bountiful harvest.

The nation needs to see him throw shoes, point fingers, raise his voice, make threats, fire people. That's one of the great weapons in the arsenal of a President, and comforts an outraged nation who then knows he cares.

He is running the risk of becoming not another Roosevelt, but another Woodrow Wilson.

3/18/2009 5:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Right, his composure doesn't reflect the national mood. But people want more than a raised voice now. They want it backed up by action.

3/18/2009 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama's picks outside of finance - for State Dept, DoJ etc have been quite encouraging if you want a change from Bushism.

But, apart from Volcker, the finance related picks have been terrible.
Geithner has been a key player in the overt and covert Wall Street bailout for two years now.
Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel got 18M for 2 years "work" on Wall Street when he had no prior industry experience.
Mary Schapiro at the SEC was head of FINRA where she failed totally to regulate Wall St and then left with a 5M payoff.
Geithner's new Assistant Sec for Legislative Affairs is the former head of political affairs at Lehman etc.

Wall Street owns the Obama administration. They also own the congressmen on the banking committees.
Its going to get worse. In the next cycle, for 2010 elections every other industry and individuals will be cutting back on political donations except the banking and finance industry so they will become an even more important contributor.

Wall Street doesn't just own the Obama administration. They own the American political process.

3/18/2009 8:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama's sure underwhelming so far, but he's just doing what the Dems, in their usual gutless stupidity, have come to believe is a "winning" strategy: Never, ever veer from convention and the (apparently) safe course. Pelosi explicitly endorsed this policy when she shirked her CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY of pursuing impeachment proceedings against the Bush/Cheney gangster syndicate. Her calculation was simple: Far better to keep a loathed administration in place, in order to win big in '08. Before Pelosi, Slick Willy made a fetish out of opportunism with "triangulation".

Obama continued the tradition when he chose hacks and educated criminals like Biden and Clinton and Summers and Rubin and Geithner. Unfortunately, it's rapidly becoming apparent that for all their self-regard, they're dinosaurs, completely out of their depth in the new world.

Our "leadership" caste has all the legitmacy and talent of the 1980's Politburo. Obama's on his way to being our Gorbachev.
-- sglover

P.S. Anybody here follow DeLong's site? If so, are you getting the same mordant amusement I am out of how, weeks or even days after he makes another smug defense of a member of the club (e.g., Geithner, Summers, etc.), events yank the rug out from under him?

Of course, you have to catch these gaffes as they happen, because DeLong tends to send threads that embarrass him down the memory hole. This is called, "the scholarly pursuit of truth".

3/18/2009 11:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you figure he can replace Geitner when the Senate Republicans won't even confirm his other picks for the treasury.

Maybe he can do some Easter emergency appointments like Bush did.

3/19/2009 7:40 AM  
Blogger SEP said...

so, you are saying obama should not have pandered to public opinion about limiting executive compensation but $165M (which is like spit in the ocean) of bonuses should make or break a presidency? real "change" at treasury etc. would have brought in people that the chattering classes would call under qualified and unable to deal with the crisis. people have to calm down.

3/19/2009 11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmmmm, so in other words, SEP, what you're saying is that when somebody promises to bring "change" and a "different viewpoint" to a government agency, they are simply lying because it can't be done. The chattering classes would never allow it, and they clearly have the final say.

No wonder this country is in the mess it's in.

3/19/2009 2:56 PM  
Anonymous b. said...

Prosecute much?

Looks like the highest law enforcement officers of the nation, along with his DOJ, thinks that investigating and prosecuting crimes of a, shall we say, certain elevated nature - say, torture, kidnapping, illegal war, war crimes, illegal wiretapping, racketeering, fraud, perjury - is an unacceptable strain on comity and generally unbecoming to a true leader.

There is a lot of idle chatter that Obama needs to change course. I honestly fail to understand where there is any indication that he is actually capable, let alone willing, to get his act together. This is the age of faith-based governing - the more pragmatism is invoked, the more dysfunctional "cognitive administrative capture" abounds.

3/19/2009 11:26 PM  
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