Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Which The President Actually Treats The American People Like Adults

I wasn't going to write about Barack Obama's economic stimulus package offensive, but after watching news clips from his town-hall meeting in Indiana and the entirety of his first presidential press conference, I feel compelled to note that:

* This is going to be one hell of a roller coaster ride.

The stimulus package was going to pass with or without Republican help because the White House not only has the votes to override filibusters, it has the backing of the vast majority of the American people. But if you have relied on the news media and not your own good sense over the past couple of weeks, you'd have thought the
new president had screwed the pooch.

* Beyond his ability to speak in complete sentences
(and paragraphs), the contrast between Obama and George Bush is shocking.

Bush's town-hall meetings were tightly controlled and scripted while Obama winged it and as a result took some unfriendly fire in Elkhart. Bush's answers at press conferences were exercises in condescension and revealed how uninformed he was while Obama's were step-by-step explanations that revealed how incredibly well informed he is.

* Obama's candor will get him in trouble sooner or later.

But by taking personal responsibility for the Daschle fiasco and now acknowledging that his efforts to change the political climate in Washington have yielded squat, he sets the bar a little higher not only for himself, but for everyone.

* That bar raising, of course, does not include the Washington press corps.

While there were some decent questions at his presser,
there were a slew of dopey ones, including Major Garrett of Faux bringing up a Biden boner, Chuck Todd of NBC trying to get Obama to blame spendthrifts for the recession. And my fave, Michael Fletcher of the WaPo, who tried to pin the prez down on A-Rod but at least didn't asked if he'd give the disgraced Yankee slugger a pardon.

* Obama caught some guff for being so serious, but the greatest economic crisis since
the Great Depression isn't something to crack wise over.

The real question is whether he adequately conveyed the gravity of the crisis. I'm not sure that he did in being professorial instead of resorting to sound bites that might have better captured the urgency of the moment, but what we got was far better than the hyperbole of the last eight years.

Top photograph by Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

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