February 9, 2009

Obamusings, pontifications and platitudes

Obama's fierce urgency of now, as it relates to the stimulus package, is in full force and as misguided as a SCUD missile. There were some things that were passed off with nary raised eyebrow that should have, well, raised eyebrows. Herewith, a few notes on the love-in that was Obama's first prime time press conference.

First off, did he or did he not say that doing nothing would lead to greater deficits? Is that compared to an additional $800+ billion dollars in ADDITIONAL DEFICITS? Rinnnnnnnngggggggg! Wake up call for the Press Corp. Hello? And another thing, his solution to inheriting a trillion dollar deficit is to DOUBLE DOWN? The bill has been stripped of all pork? Really? Are there enough fact checkers to look into that before tomorrow morning?

By the time I peeled myself off the floor, the One had finished his divine proclamation and had started on his first of his 13 very carefully pre-selected questions. He WAS reading those names off of a notepad wasn't he? He's got screeners for his press conferences? This is not good Republicans, because there are a couple of things Obama happened to get right.
  1. He remembered that his forte was speaking, and he stuck to that in many ways. He planned a prime time press conference, hoping to connect with the Average Joe (so long as he isn't a plumber) and convince them that this stinkulus package must get done. This is likely the first of many press conferences - it's easier to talk than govern and it looks like this could be his approach to a lot of things. He wanted to own the discussion by managing it how he saw fit. Things don't go his way, and you can count on a press conference.
  2. He managed to turn 30 second answers into 10 minute answers, thereby eating up any opportunity for potentially grilling questions getting asked. In other words, he managed the clock. His basketball knowledge is serving him well - he ran the game clock and avoided a full court press. He did leave rebounds but the press corp was too lax to pick them up.
  3. He did his own full court press on the urgency of the crisis. If he says it enough, the lie becomes the accepted fact. Is it a lie? Well, is it the 100% gospel truth? How do we know that this is the worst crisis since the sinking of Atlantis? Or, rather the Great Depression? We don't Mr. President and neither do you. Just a note on what many economists have said - job losses are a lagging indicator not a leading indicator.
  4. He said he'd save/create 4 million jobs. Now with specificity like that, he can't get pinned down. Oh, sure we only created 50,000 jobs, but without this package, another 3.95 million would have been lost so we did as promised. How can you possibly tell how many jobs a stimulus package SAVED? He's set himself up for guaranteed success unless he gets called on the premise of his job efforts.
  5. He's talking down the economy - it serves to reinforce the urgency of 'pass it now' and it also helps set him up to take credit for success no matter what happens. The ever-popular it would have been far worse if I hadn't intervened meme.
Dick Morris commented on the reference to Japan's lost decade of the 90's - they ran massive deficits. Obama also mentioned that he thought the issue of whether the Great Depression was solved by FDR was over. I guess he hasn't talked to enough economists. At Terrynomics, there's an interesting posting on the subject of both of these events.
As I've mentioned in an earlier post there are two popular lines of thought on
how to accomplish this and one unpopular line: monetarists who believe in
government manipulation of currency and interest rates (quantitative easing);
Keynesian who believe in government spending (fiscal stimulus), particularly
deficit spending; Austrian economists advise doing nothing and letting nature
work things out. It is a folk belief among Americans that the Great Depression
was ended by implementation of Keynesian deficit spending. Among economists
there remains great debate about whether this is true.

Geez, not in Obama's mind - that debate was won by the Keynsians. Too bad he's wrong. Oh well, don't let a little truth get in the way of a great story.

On the issue of US/Iran dialogue: The best word he can come up with is "unhelpful"? Oh wait, he said "destabilizing regime". Uh, oh Ahmadinejad be careful, he might break out the phrase 'Iran gets my goat!' Such terse, cruel verbiage. You should feel appropriately scolded. Now come talk (he did follow it up with words like "overtures", "diplomacy", "reviewing" and "looking for openings"). Come on, he's not really THAT mad.

In response to the Chip Reid (CBS) question on bi-partisanship, he launched into a speech-like answer that made it clear that he had no real answer or didn't know where to go to get to his point across. Or he was just killing the clock. An odd result seeing as he seemed to have pre-screened the questions. Then again, I think maybe he was just using questions as a jumping off point, rather than answering the question he was asked. Looks like you only get skewered for that if your name is Palin.

Jake Tapper, he of the humilate Press Secretary Gibbs fame, asked a reasonable question - what metrics will we measure your success by? While the answer sounded reasonable, in fact it was vague - 4 million jobs created/saved (define saved), effective credit markets, stabilized housing markets and growth. All except the last one depend on who is defining them. What's 'stabilized' mean?

On Ed Henry's (CNN) question about withdrawl from Afghanistan, there was a bit of ironic hypocrisy. Obama would NOT COMMIT TO A TIMETABLE. I guess you only get skewered for that if your name is Bush.

The Washington Post gets a question. A Rod on steroids? Just take away their press credentials. A softball question about baseball? What a waste of air.

Huffington Post gets a question. They use it to ask when Obama is going to get around to prosecuting that criminal Bush. I figure we've got at least another couple of years of this tripe. I know it took me a lot of time to get over Clinton. Then again, he did commit perjury, not some imagined violation of a fictitious right.

All in all, Obama used the speech to score political points - get the bill passed, get the approval ratings back in the right direction. That's understandable - it's a political town and a political game, but the lustre will wear off if he overplays that hand. I for one hope he does, because when it comes right down to it, this was nothing more than a distraction from the truth - the stinkulus bill still sucks, it still deserves no Republican support, it is still a partisan bill and no amount of eloquence can change the truth.

UPDATE: Hot Air has a couple of points that support my notes above, one supporting the Japanese Lost Decade and the spending associated with it. The other was my question about the supposed lack of pork in the bill - even the Associated Press calls the President's assertions into question. The added plus for me - I beat Hot Air to the punch by posting my rant last night. Speed doesn't always make for accuracy, but getting out something faster than Hot Air, I'll take that - it won't happen too often.

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