Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Bailout, Financial Crisis, Government, History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 6:57 am

They were just whispers a couple of weeks ago - a hint there, a question here. But if you believe Howard Fineman, the inside the beltway crowd has taken the mettle of our new president and discovered that despite all the hype, Obama may not be all he’s cracked up to be.

I hasten to add that this has not and probably will not affect his enormous personal popularlity anytime soon. The mass of citizens have more common sense than the elites and a lot more patience as well. But to people who follow politics as a religion and look for signs and portents as a soothsayer would look for harbingers in the entrails of a frog, there are a few things to be worried about when looking at our president’s performance so far.

What has he done in 50 days? He has proposed much and accomplished some. The primal push of his presidency - the stimulus bill - is getting it from both sides with conservatives deriding it as pork while liberals already saying it wasn’t big enough. This is something we better get used to from the left because they area establishing the parameters of debate when the ultimate let down occurs and it is shown that Obama’s massive spending is not working. The battle cry will be “not enough!” rather than “let’s try something else!”

But why not enough? Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, and even President Obama himself have all used the exact same phrase to describe their approach to governance in these times of economic hardship; “In crisis, there is opportunity.” I am convinced this phrase will come back to haunt them because if the first stimulus bill wasn’t enough to get the economy moving, it was because it was loaded up with “opportunity” spending that had nothing to do with economic recovery and everything to do with remaking America. In other words, a great deal of the spending in the stimulus package was discretionary and not crisis-related.

And now Obama wants to come back for more? For hundreds of billions that will be for “real” stimulus?” He’s got to be kidding. What this shows is a frightening prospect; Obama cares less about economic recovery than he does about changing America to reflect his left wing vision.

This is also born out in how he has established his priorities. At Obama’s first press conference, he refused to discuss what his administration was going to do about the banking crisis because he “didn’t want to steal any thunder” from his Treasury Secretary who was going to announce the plan the next day.

This was a lie. There was no “thunder” to steal because his Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner had no plan to announce. Once that became apparent, the markets began a serious slide to oblivion. And here we are more than 5 weeks later and Geithner is still mum about his plans to save the banks. This is causing not only a lack of confidence but has opened the Administration up to questions about their basic competence. It has made Geithner a butt of jokes and has even led to calls in some quarters for his resignation.

Did Obama think we wouldn’t notice? Did he believe that people would simply forget his promise to have a plan? And here is where wildly misplaced priorities come into play. The fact is, the key to this whole economic mess is getting the banks to lend money again. Obama could pass 10 stimulus bills and it wouldn’t make a difference because as long as credit is frozen, our economy will continue its free fall.

This begs the obvious question; why did the Obama Administration choose to try and pass the stimulus bill before solving the banking crisis? Why didn’t they concentrate on that fundamental problem rather than ram an $800 billion spending free for all down our throats when even its supporters say didn’t contain enough money to immediately stimulate the economy? Shouldn’t they have been working from the first hours after the election on trying to solve the problem that, more than any other factor, could lead to a catastrophe for our nation and the world?

Or was it more important to take advantage of the “opportunity” found in the crisis to fund liberal programs that the president feels will remake America?

Obama claims he can work on more than one problem at a time:

“I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time,” Obama stated today. “They forget that Lincoln helped lay down the transcontinental railroad, passed the Homestead Act, and created the National Academy of Sciences in the midst of Civil War. Likewise, President Roosevelt didn’t have the luxury of choosing between ending a Depression and fighting a war. President Kennedy didn’t have the luxury of choosing between civil rights and sending us to the moon. And we don’t have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term.”

As Jules Crittenden points out, Roosevelt needed the war to get out of the depression. And Kennedy? I know Obama went to Columbia and all but Holy Smokes! Kennedy hardly “chose” civil rights - it was forced on him by the courage of the Freedom Riders and the demonstrations in Selma and elsewhere. Kennedy was furious with King for forcing his hand and sicced Bobby on him to try and get him to pull back. Also, as Jules points out, civil rights and the moon program together did not cost the government even a tenth of a stimulus bill in today’s dollars.

That’s beside the point, however. Yes, presidents can and should deal with more than one problem at a time. But Barack Obama is starting to look suspiciously like Jimmy Carter who tried to do so much those first 3 months that he ended up accomplishing very little. This description of Obama by Howard Fineman is eerily Carteresque:

Obama may be mistaking motion for progress, calling signals for a game plan. A busy, industrious overachiever, he likes to check off boxes on a long to-do list. A genial, amenable guy, he likes to appeal to every constituency, or at least not write off any. A beau ideal of Harvard Law, he can’t wait to tackle extra-credit answers on the exam.

But there is only one question on this great test of American fate: can he lead us away from plunging into another Depression?

Carter was so desperate to be liked and yet, ended up being universally despised because he ineptly used the powers at his command. What do you call a president who puts economic recovery as a secondary goal in a deep recession while being unable to come to grips with the fundamental reasons for the downturn?

Inept? Incompetent? Misguided? In over his head?


If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from what remains of corporate America. Much of what they are saying is contradictory, but all of it is focused on the president:

  • The $787 billion stimulus, gargantuan as it was, was in fact too small and not aimed clearly enough at only immediate job-creation.
  • The $275 billion home-mortgage-refinancing plan, assembled by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, is too complex and indirect.
  • The president gave up the moral high ground on spending not so much with the “stim” but with the $400 billion supplemental spending bill, larded as it was with 9,000 earmarks.
  • The administration is throwing good money after bad in at least two cases-the sinkhole that is Citigroup (there are many healthy banks) and General Motors (they deserve what they get).
  • The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to “give up” something.
  • A willingness to give too much leeway to Congress to handle crucial details, from the stim to the vague promise to “reform” medical care without stating what costs could be cut.
  • A 2010 budget that tries to do far too much, with way too rosy predictions on future revenues and growth of the economy. This led those who fear we are about to go over Niagara Falls to deride Obama as a paddler who’d rather redesign the canoe.
  • A treasury secretary who has been ridiculed on “Saturday Night Live” and compared to Doogie Howser, Barney Fife and Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone”-and those are the nice ones.
  • A seeming paralysis in the face of the banking crisis: unwilling to nationalize banks, yet unable to figure out how to handle toxic assets in another way-by, say, setting up a “bad bank” catch basin.

There’s more at the link but you get the idea. We are, for all intents and purposes, adrift and at sea with the president’s answer to every problem to spend more, borrow more, and use the crisis as an opportunity to tear at the fabric of our founding. The Administration is frozen about what to do with banks that are teetering on the edge of insolvency (along with the entire banking system) and appear not to be focusing on the chaos their incomprehensible delay in proposing solutions to solve the problem is causing. Instead, we get nonsense about comparing the stock market to tracking polls rather than a vote of “no confidence” in Obama’s plans - or lack thereof.

Are these just the growing pains that all presidents go through when they first take office? I’m sure some of this can be ascribed to that notion. It is, after all, still very early in Obama’s term. And I would hardly write off one so gifted so easily.

But Jimmy Carter was also seen as brilliant, a super technocrat who could answer the question of the day, “Is the presidency too big for one man?” It took Reagan - chuckling and snoozing his way through history - to definitively answer that question; it depends on the man.

To those who read the signs of this administration, the question is not if the presidency is too big for one man but whether the man currently occupying the office is up to the challenges that face us.

The jury is still out on whether or not he is.


  1. And I would hardly write off one so gifted so easily.

    I’m not sure what gifts you are talking about… he reads a teleprompter very well. Great organizer?… not so much. Deep thinker?… no proof of that. Inpiring leader?… yes, for 30% of the population (but so was Bush). Gracious international statesman with our strongest ally?… nope.

    Let me think… hmmm… hmmm… yep, good reader. That pretty much sums up all his gifts that I can think of. You know of some others?

    Comment by lionheart — 3/11/2009 @ 8:06 am

  2. First things first. Law school exams are cumbersome suckers that don’t give extra credit for doing more than one thing. They want the central hypothetical answered, and depending on how well it is done the grade will run the gamut from “F” to “A.” If you throw in extraneous matters, you are looking at a lower grade.

    And so it is with Obama. Buffett’s pointed remarks were based precisely on the premise above and the one you mentioned. When the economy is collapsing because of the credit crunch, that is where the focus should be; there are no extra points for taking on something else. Yet we have extraneous bullshit dumping out of the White House unrelated to the banking crisis. This is a prescription for absolute disaster. And as someone who has been at the feet of some of the best constitutional law professors, I will be kind and tell you that economics are not, well, much on their radar. I’m afraid that problem is manifest with Obama. He was largely elected on his Iraq War stance. It shows. McCain admitted he didn’t understand much about the economy. Obama has shown it.

    When you write:

    This begs the obvious question; why did the Obama Administration choose to try and pass the stimulus bill before solving the banking crisis…

    I think you know the answer is apparent. This is not about solving the problem. It is, in every sense, about an ideology that seeks at a minimum to make the United States economy either a mixed one or more socialist in nature. Geitner has said as much although he couched it as “changed capitalism.”

    Shortly after Obama started to suggest these approaches, I and several others suggested that they be opposed and you said that was rooting for failure. I’ll leave the latter aside. I know you are a thoughtful guy. It wasn’t what we “wanted.” It was an acknowledgement that such policies have failed everywhere they have been tried and aren’t for the purposes cited. You seem to admit as much now.

    My biggest fear now is that if public support for Obama plummets and he starts to look like a one-termer (and I strongly suspect this could be the case), he will work feverishly to implement even social engineering. Will his own party stand up to him if that is the case? Based on the evidence so far, there is precious little reason to expect so.

    Comment by jackson1234 — 3/11/2009 @ 9:38 am

  3. Sounds like we need to elect a bunch of Republicans to fix these problems. Clearly, that’s the only real solution.

    Wait… maybe I should have said, “Conservatives” instead.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 3/11/2009 @ 11:12 am

  4. Third graders would suffice in lieu of the Obama economic illiterates, Chuck. Even they know to eat their main meal before pie.

    Comment by jackson1234 — 3/11/2009 @ 11:24 am

  5. Even they know to eat their main meal before pie.

    That’s insane. What if you’re full before it’s time for pie? Then you’ll miss out on all that delicious pie.

    Comment by Chuck Tucson — 3/11/2009 @ 12:04 pm

  6. The stage is set, the characters are mostly on stage(except for the tax dodgers and soiled ones), and the audience is sitting back and listening. The orchestra is fiddling a tune, or is it a dirge?. The missing person is the play’s author (or authors).

    What they are hearing is no play, but a rambling of flawed personalities and pompous idiots that think they rule the world now, and can rewrite the Constitution, chapter at a time.

    The audience grows more and more restless as nothing happens but the same dirge played over and over again: spend! it says. Spend! Spend some more! Dream up something to spend on, any old piece of pork!

    The boos and hisses are getting louder now. The characters are doe-eyed in the glare of lights and in the palpable anger rising in the theater.
    All it will take for shoes and tomatoes to rain on the stage is one more period of stuttering silence, one more dumb gaffe, or one more exhortation to yet another stimulus to spend, spend, spend.

    Then comes the cry: “Get off the stage, and let some real actors perform in a real play!” Amateur night is over!

    Comment by mannning — 3/11/2009 @ 12:20 pm

  7. The battle cry will be “not enough!”

    When will Pete Seeger start singing?

    “We were — waist deep in the Big Muddy
    And the big fool said to push on.”

    Comment by John Howard — 3/11/2009 @ 1:16 pm

  8. If Howard Fineman said it it’s almost sure to be wrong. (I’m still waiting for the mirror image Time and Newsweek covers announcing that all is lost, woe is us, before I get heavily back into the stock market.)

    Here’s my bet: a year from today (March 11, 2010) we’ll have found a bottom to the stock market and the housing market. Employment will be coming back up, crossing 7.5%. And Obama will be polling at 55% or better.

    Obama quickly achieved consensus on Iraq (remember Iraq?); he set new policy on Gitmo and torture; he rushed additional forces to Afghanistan; he overturned the ban on stem cell funding; passed a rather major stimulus bill; laid out an also rather major mortgage rescue plan. That’s in 50 days.

    He hasn’t done as well on banks. But it may simply be that there are no good options. It’s possible that your party (with some assists from my party) and a bunch of MBA geniuses so thoroughly screwed the pooch that there’s no unscrewing it.

    Of course maybe Geithner’s just a putz. But I’ll stand by my bet.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 3/11/2009 @ 1:35 pm

  9. Michael, I hope you’re right, but I’d bet you are wrong. But even if you are right, the bigger question is “where was the nadir” during this next year. If its true that things are getting better 1 year from now, but only because the Dow floored at 4000 (or worse), I think you could only consider your victory pyrrhic.

    Comment by lionheart — 3/11/2009 @ 2:48 pm

  10. Obama may be be intelligent (I have my doubts), but he obviously lacks common sense. I’ll take a president with an average IQ but lots of common sense over one with a mensa IQ and no common sense any day.

    Comment by BubbaJ — 3/11/2009 @ 3:17 pm

  11. Disagreements between the European Union and the US over how to combat the global recession widened on Tuesday as EU governments made clear they had little appetite for piling up more debt to fight the collapse in output and jobs.
    Finance ministers from the 27-nation bloc insisted in Brussels that it was doing enough to support world demand and did not need at present to adopt another fiscal stimulus plan, as Washington is urging.

    They are already talking about another “stimulus” because the previous “stimulus” was so ill-conceived and poorly targeted to actually improve the economic situation on the ground.

    Comment by Neo — 3/11/2009 @ 3:18 pm

  12. Lionheart:

    Not to be too ruthlessly self-interested here, but I’m long on cash, so Dow 4000 would be swell for me. And I need to buy a house, too, so . . .

    Comment by michael reynolds — 3/11/2009 @ 3:43 pm

  13. 51 days in and he’s already Jimmy Carter? Thanks Rick for actually giving him a chance in a country Bush drove off a cliff. Your party is out of power because they have no new ideas and all they know how to do is attack. We don’t need the gop or dittoheads to take back this country. You guys broke it and howl after 51 days that Obama hasn’t fixed it. The adults are in charge now, the rightwing attack machine can’t spew out enough crap to satisfy itself. Our side just ignores enemies that don’t want to help the country because their ideology gets in the way….so be it

    Comment by Joe — 3/11/2009 @ 7:55 pm

  14. Joe:

    Preach it,brother.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 3/11/2009 @ 9:24 pm

  15. Only 51 days in and Obama’s supporters won’t defend his policies. Not Warren Buffet, or Jack Welch, or Jim Cramer, or Chris Matthews. Only 51 days in and they’re already blaming Bush for what is shaping up as a historic failure. No fan dancer ever covered her ass faster.

    Comment by John Howard — 3/12/2009 @ 4:24 am

  16. Holy Moly. I’ve finally caught up on the news and I’m stunned at the number of prominent Obama supporters in doubt. In addition to Warren Buffet, Jim Cramer, Jack Welch and Chris Matthews, now Thomas Friedman, David Gergen, Maureen Dowd, and David Brooks are wringing hands over how much worse Boy Wonder’s policies have made the economy.

    Where are the people who will assure us those policies, created by a White House and Congress totally owned by Democrats, are the path to an economic turnaround?

    Comment by John Howard — 3/12/2009 @ 7:02 am

  17. Since when is spending lots and lots of money you don’t have a “new idea” ?

    Comment by Neo — 3/12/2009 @ 8:57 am

  18. John Howard:

    You’re like a newborn who, having pooped his diaper, cries furiously that Mommy hasn’t cleaned it up quickly enough. But then Republicans are a juvenile bunch.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 3/12/2009 @ 2:56 pm

  19. Joe said:
    “The adults are in charge now, the rightwing attack machine can’t spew out enough crap to satisfy itself. Our side just ignores enemies that don’t want to help the country because their ideology gets in the way….so be it”

    But Michael Reynolds said:
    “John Howard:

    You’re like a newborn who, having pooped his diaper, cries furiously that Mommy hasn’t cleaned it up quickly enough. But then Republicans are a juvenile bunch.”

    Comment by Nat — 3/12/2009 @ 6:12 pm

  20. Joe said:
    “The adults are in charge now, the rightwing attack machine can’t spew out enough crap to satisfy itself. Our side just ignores enemies that don’t want to help the country because their ideology gets in the way….so be it”

    But Michael Reynolds said:
    “John Howard:

    You’re like a newborn who, having pooped his diaper, cries furiously that Mommy hasn’t cleaned it up quickly enough. But then Republicans are a juvenile bunch.”

    I’m sixteen and even I know that simply insulting someone won’t help your argument…

    Comment by Nat — 3/12/2009 @ 6:12 pm

  21. Wait, he’s Jimmy Carter, hang time 30 seconds, Wait He’s a Radical, hang time another 30 seconds, Wait,he’s(Insert next Liberal epithet for elderly Republicans to remember), Keep trying Rick, something will stick. You all are the worst losers in the world.

    Comment by the Fly-Man — 3/13/2009 @ 4:57 am

  22. Worst. President. Evah.

    Comment by nikkolai — 3/13/2009 @ 10:10 am

  23. Fly Man:

    I’m hoping for Bolshevik. It’s such a great word.

    Or they could go totally Dada and pick something off-the-wall like Florist, or Car Detailer. You know, something that would really have us all scratching our chins.

    Comment by michael reynolds — 3/13/2009 @ 1:31 pm

  24. Saturday links…

    Why did Lincoln pick Andrew Johnson?
    Brussels Journal reports on this week’s NYC climate conference. They begin:

    More than six hundred scientists, economists, legislators, and journalists from around the world met in New York on March 8-10 fo…

    Trackback by Maggie's Farm — 3/14/2009 @ 10:47 am

  25. [...] "The Carterization of Obama" Originally published:  11 March 2009 Submitted by:  U.S. Common Sense Summary:  Reviewing Obama’s policies on the economy over the first 50 days of his term, and comparing them to Jimmy Carter’s. [...]

    Pingback by Political Blog Weekly: 13 March 2009 | U.S. Common Sense — 3/15/2009 @ 7:27 pm

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