Thursday, February 4, 2010

Does Thou Protest Too Much?

Keith Hennessey is one of my favorite bloggers because he actually uses data and political economy approaches to his posts. Still, he worked in the Bush White House, so you have to take his work with a grain of salt. This passage from today's post just struck me:
Yes, President Obama faced some enormous economic challenges early in his term. His predecessor did as well, even before the crisis of 2008: a bursting tech bubble leading to a recession in 2001, an economic seizure caused by 9/11, corporate governance scandals in 2002, a recession in 2002-2003, the economic uncertainty triggered by invading Iraq (this one was a policy choice), and eventually oil spiking above $100 per barrel.

I think it’s OK for a President to talk about the challenges he and the Nation face. It helps to set reasonable expectations. I think a President should propose solutions to those challenges and describe a brighter future that he hopes to deliver. I think it’s tacky and tiresome for a President to keep bashing his predecessor, especially more than a year after taking office. I acknowledge that my perspective on this point is biased by my professional past.

I also think this refrain weakens President Obama. He is portraying himself as a victim of forces that are beyond his control. A President should want people to focus on him and what he’s going to do, not on a comparison of him with someone else (anyone else). President Obama should want people talking about the Obama Agenda rather than about what happened ten years ago. Ten years ago.
He then goes onto argue that Obama needs to establish some new set of policies to differeniate himself from Bush or at least work to rollback the stuff he's attacking, like the Medicare drug benefit of that stupid pair of wars that Obama promised he'd end.

My question is this - where are the positive policies in government these days? The Democrats, scarred after the health care debacle, aren't getting anywhere near new ideas. The Republicans just sit back and attack the Democrats on wasteful spending, but as even Keith acknowledges, the GOP is partially responsible for this mess and have zero track record for limiting government growth. There's a real opportunity for a policy entrepreneur in this political environment. I wonder who will seize this chance? Any candidates? Mike Pence? Scott Brown?


  1. Teddy intends to run for office as soon as there are no enormous challenges in being President of the United States. Perhaps Mr. Obama's time in the Senate did not give him adequate notice that the executive role is a difficult one. Hostages, 21% interest rates, unemployment -- all haunted us in 1980, yet we elected an chief officer who seemed positive and undaunted. Perspective is important, my dear Fundman. Perspective.

  2. Its time for a new third party: