Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Obama is a Gifted Talker

The sobering voice of Mr. Market
03/04/09 - PowerLineBlog by Scott Johnson

[edited] Obama's self-awareness has been a source of his strength. Has he been misled by it?

Fred Barnes quotes Obama letting his hair down with a group of television anchors at a White House lunch. Obama assured them he likes being president. "And it turns out I'm very good at it."

What could he mean? Paul Mirengoff has rightly identified Obama's "faith in words" as his leading characteristic:

"Obama's faith in words is a function of his life experiences. His faciility with words is extraordinary, and it accounts almost entirely for his astonishing success in life. Obama has never run anything substantial other than a political campaign, so he has not yet confronted the limits of his words. He has dabbled in lawyering, where words can take on a disproportionate significance, and in teaching law, where words are the be-all and end-all."

Don't Worry, Be Happy
Obama gives the markets the back of his hand.
03/03/09 - WeeklyStandard by William Kristol

[edited] Now, Obama wants to focus on "long term" issues like health care, energy, and education -- while not showing any urgency about the banking crisis.

Instead, the Obama administration throws more money at Citi and AIG. This at best simply puts off the day of reckoning (but at some considerable cost); at worst, Obama's Treasury is fiddling while Rome burns.

Everyone agrees the toxic assets have to be separated from the rest. The Obama administration has shied away from embracing any solution. Has a single toxic asset actually been seized, separated, sold, or de-toxified? I don't think so.

The stock market isn't like a tracking poll. Polls were about the electoral prospects of Barack Obama. The stock market is about real money, about the livelihoods of real Americans.

Obama's political advisors may have told him that dealing with the banking system will be politically difficult. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner may want to build up his political capital after a rough confirmation before he steps up to the plate. Larry Summers may not want to endanger his chance to be Fed chairman by being identified with an unpopular bank "bailout".

I'm told almost every theme in Obama's speech last Tuesday night was focus-group tested, and the speech played pretty well politically. But the markets weren't impressed. Isn't it time for Obama and his team to get up the nerve to stop playing politics and to govern?

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