Thursday, November 04, 2010

Audacity Deficit

The Focus Hocus-Pocus
After all, are people who say that Mr. Obama should have focused on the economy saying that he should have pursued a bigger stimulus package? Are they saying that he should have taken a tougher line with the banks? If not, what are they saying? That he should have walked around with furrowed brow muttering, “I’m focused, I’m focused”?

Mr. Obama’s problem wasn’t lack of focus; it was lack of audacity. At the start of his administration he settled for an economic plan that was far too weak. He compounded this original sin both by pretending that everything was on track and by adopting the rhetoric of his enemies.  ...

But he chose a seemingly safer course: a medium-size stimulus package that was clearly not up to the task. And that’s not 20/20 hindsight. In early 2009, many economists, yours truly included, were more or less frantically warning that the administration’s proposals were nowhere near bold enough. ...

Meanwhile, the administration’s bank-friendly policies and rhetoric — dictated by fear of hurting financial confidence — ended up fueling populist anger, to the benefit of even more bank-friendly Republicans. Mr. Obama added to his problems by effectively conceding the argument over the role of government in a depressed economy.

I felt a sense of despair during Mr. Obama’s first State of the Union address, in which he declared that “families across the country are tightening their belts and making tough decisions. The federal government should do the same.” Not only was this bad economics — right now the government must spend, because the private sector can’t or won’t — it was almost a verbatim repeat of what John Boehner, the soon-to-be House speaker, said when attacking the original stimulus. If the president won’t speak up for his own economic philosophy, who will?

So where, in this story, does “focus” come in? Lack of nerve? Yes. Lack of courage in one’s own convictions? Definitely. Lack of focus? No.
In the interests of not repeating the same sin against The Precious as continues to be committed against the Big Dog, Obama did not do this all by himself. He can bear the bulk of the blame, not the least because his platform was elect me because I am the answer to your woes, but he was enabled be an entire cast of Unity Democrats and Very Serious People and Purchased Fellows, many of them the same people who did their best to destroy their own party leader from 1992 on, and who back-stabbed Gore in 2000. Together they are the gutless wonders who prefer to lose than, well, stand for anything. Not that Obama thinks there's anything wrong with that.

Audacity is in the doing. Nothing less.



mjames said...

Obama doesn't have an economic philosophy, or any other philosophy, as far as I can see. He doesn't believe in anything. He never used his brain to develop a viewpoint on any topic whatsoever, as far as I can see, and then defend that viewpoint from attack (even a college thesis, for heaven's sake).

You can't have the courage of your convictions if you don't have any convictions. Therein lies the problem.

Anonymous said...

Your stuff is really cooking. I like the last bit, particularly. We need to have an argument, and we need to win it, with those upper class Dems who think that liberalism consists of mildly tolerant social beliefs coupled with neo-liberal "let them eat cake" rhetoric for most of the rest of the country. So, if you're in Nebraska, Kansas, or Alabama and don't share those social beliefs, what do you get? Nothing. I'm not saying that all of these folks would become fire-breathing liberals if we offered them something tangible, but perhaps enough of them would to make a real difference. (Another thing to keep in mind is that the social issues become a lot more hot-button to people in times of economic distress when they're on the ragged edge and trying to make sense of things.) If we actually deliver liberal governance that provided something real to folks in fly-over country, the South, and other places that the Smart Boys write off, maybe we could build a coalition that had some legs. Until then, all this stuff about messaging and focus is the same drivel that Dems always use to disguise their failure to grapple with the central problem.