Monday, March 23, 2009

Memo To Barack Obama Bashers: I'm Scared & Angry Too, But Please Back Off

The inevitable piling on the Barack Obama presidency is well underway -- and well too prematurely.

Consider that Obama has been in office for not even two thirds of the mythic 100 days by which new presidents are prejudged. Consider that we had been sabotaged by domestic terrorists in the form of the Bush administration and that the damage it wrought will take years to undo. Consider that no president since FDR has inherited as immense an economic crisis, as well as several other crises, including a health-care system on the verge of collapse and two wars.

Obama will have plenty of opportunity to prove that he doesn't have the chops, let alone the hired guns, to face down these crises.

That spending our way out of a moribund economy is not the right path to recovery.

That raising taxes on the wealthy and beginning to close an income gap that is at the heart of many societal ills is penny wise but pound foolish.

That ridding institutions of toxic assets while keeping current managers is not enough to save the financial system.

That weaning us from our addiction to foreign oil and fossil fuels will not pay off down the road.

That resuscitating a public education system that fails too many of our children is not worth the expense and effort.

That making diplomatic overtures to nations that the previous president bullied will not be a wiser course.

But until then, please back off.

Populist outrage is the flavor of the moment. But look closely at the polls and it is apparent that while this feeling of being terribly wronged is pervasive it is not -- much to the dismay of "Just Say No" Republicans -- particularly directed at a man who while showing an occasional propensity for having a tin ear has had the keys to the national car for barely two months.

Obama states that he is taking responsibility for the gaffes and missteps on his watch, as well as a whole lot of stuff that he has had the misfortune to inherit, and I believe him. He is treating us as adults and not political playthings in marked contrast to the last eight years, and that feels good amidst all the shock, pain, suffering and recriminations.

The president suggested at week's end as he met with governors and mayors who are just beginning to receive the initial injection of stimulus money that we need to let off steam and then move on. That may seem like too pat a response, but it is the appropriate one. The AIG bonuses are a pimple on the elephant's ass and the sooner that Congress and everyone else can get back to dealing with the elephant the better.

It is difficult to comprehend all of the balls that Obama has in the air and the consequences of dropping even one or two of them. But I am trying to remain hopeful while at the same time concede the national pooch may well have been screwed. That while the good old days may never have been as good as we thought, there will be no returning to the prosperity that many of us took for granted.

In fact, like a lot of us I too am scared.

Scared for my children's future.

Scared for my friends of frail health and limited resources.

And scared for my pension fund.

I continue to believe that because of some extraordinary twists of fate, we have been gifted a president who was teaching constitutional law when the seeds of the crisis were first germinating. And that he is the best person to lead us out of the darkness, certainly more so than John McCain, Hillary Clinton or myriad other old-school pols would have been.

But to blame Obama for what has come before and judge him prematurely for what comes after is grotesque given our dire straits. So in the meantime, please back off. And pray that he -- and we -- succeed.

Drawings by M.C. Escher

No comments: