Question of the day

When will Obama’s honeymoon with the Left end?  And when it does (the answer to this question does not begin with “if”), can the date of separation be traced back to yesterday, March 21, 2009 — a day when John Cole said this:

If these guys are right [about Obama’s bank/bad debt plan], this will be the undoing of the Obama administration. Better enjoy this four years, libs.

Yes, this is the same John Cole of Balloon Juice who, during the 2008 campaign, was practically ready to take Obama’s penis into his mouth and deep throat it.

Though, admittedly, so were the rest of us.

What prompted this comment?  A couple things: first is Tim Geithner’s plan to rescue the banks.  Krugman explains how much this plan sucks:

The Obama administration is now completely wedded to the idea that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the financial system — that what we’re facing is the equivalent of a run on an essentially sound bank. As Tim Duy put it, there are no bad assets, only misunderstood assets. And if we get investors to understand that toxic waste is really, truly worth much more than anyone is willing to pay for it, all our problems will be solved.

To this end the plan proposes to create funds in which private investors put in a small amount of their own money, and in return get large, non-recourse loans from the taxpayer, with which to buy bad — I mean misunderstood — assets. This is supposed to lead to fair prices because the funds will engage in competitive bidding.

But it’s immediately obvious, if you think about it, that these funds will have skewed incentives. In effect, Treasury will be creating — deliberately! — the functional equivalent of Texas S&Ls in the 1980s: financial operations with very little capital but lots of government-guaranteed liabilities. For the private investors, this is an open invitation to play heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose. So sure, these investors will be ready to pay high prices for toxic waste. After all, the stuff might be worth something; and if it isn’t, that’s someone else’s problem.

You know who that somebody else is: us.  It still stymies me that the Obama administration believes the banks are solvent.  I thought the “stress test” bullshit was a ruse; simply a way to buy more time to figure out how to solve this crisis.  I mean, nobody is actually supposed to believe that banks which made trillions in bad loans have any money, right?  This is basic fucking accounting here: when you’re assets become drastically unequal to you’re liabilities, you’re fucked.  But the Obama administration apparently doesn’t believe this.

Which bleeds into the second reason for Cole’s comment, and the growing feeling that Obama’s approval ratings are about to take a hike south: Incompetence.  During the campaign Obama hardly ever appeared anything but calm, cool, and collected.  There were brief outbursts, like his “sweetie” comment, but his appearance of confidence far out-weighted the negatives.  Obama forged his own way through life, excelled at everything he’s committed himself to, and looked like a natural for the presidency.  He’s a man who will see us through perilous times.

Where did that man go?

Lately, research for my classes has led me to read a little bit about President Eisenhower.  When Ike was elected in 1952, the economy still suffered a hangover from the removal of wartime production — certainly not akin to the banking crisis we’re looking at today, but still a recession.  What did Ike do?  For starters, he was ready from day one — he used his time as President-elect to create his entire cabinet.  Eisenhower essentiall had his first cabinet meeting a week before his inauguration, at (I believe) the Biltmore Hotel in NYC.

Contrast that with Obama, whose first pick for Treasury Secretary could find himself out of a fucking job before the summer — and rightfully so.  Here’s a guy, Geithner, who could have hit a home run in his first major speech describing a plan to stabilize the banks, but failed miserably becuase he didn’t describe anything.  It reminded me of how somebody acts when they haven’t studied for a test and they’re shown as a fraud; speaking in generalities but not specifics about a topic.

At that point, whoever Obama’s Treasury Secretary was going to be had four months to research this problem and come up with a plan — Four.  Months.  What the fuck happened during that time span?  Before the election was over, when it was apparent that Obama had it locked up, was he forming a cabinet?  How did he choose his cabinet nominees?  When did the process start?  And exactly what kind of background checks were performed?  If you thought cabinet nominees who hadn’t paid back taxes was a problem (or just a silly issue), try a Treasury Secretary who sat in on the AIG bailout meeting in September 2008 that not only approved the outrageous bonuses, but let these business school rejects who drove the economy into potentially its biggest mess ever, keep their jobs.

Are you fucking kidding me?

While the Obama administration may have successfully made Rush Limbaugh the face of the Republican party, if the president isn’t careful he’s going to make Geithner the face of his administration.  And what happens then?  I’ll tell you what — the Limbaughites come back into power.

When FDR stared down the Great Depression, he combated it with what were essentially simple, transparent government plans — individual bills pushed through Congress that were easy to describe, which the late president wasted no time doing such in his Fireside Chats.  If one plan didn’t work, the solution was simple: try again.

What Obama has done is create giant, non-transparent plans — a giant stimulus bill, a multi-trillion dollar bank bailout that has many liberal economists scratching their heads.  All of this leads to the biggest problem: Obama has left himself no wiggle room of these plans don’t work.  There is no going back to Congress for a second try because they won’t give it to him.  Congress may not be all that Democrat when Obama has to ask again.

These are all competence issues.  And I know in my last post, and in an email to other bloggers here, I said that I would step back from criticizing Obama and let things play out for a few months; by then it would only be right to attribute the problems Obama is facing to him and not the previous administration.  And hey, I don’t for a second believe that McCain would be doing a better job — that douchebag doesn’t even understand the consequences of not bailing out AIG and how they are tied to the financial system house of cards.  But I’m sorry, this is just getting too ridiculous too quick.

Obama should have had solid cabinet picks and solid plans from day one. Given the fact that he didn’t makes me think of a troubling comparison to foreshadowing.  You know when you finish a novel, then read the first few chapters again and see all the clues fall into place?  We’re reading the first chapters of the Obama administration right now, and I must say, I don’t like the clues I see.

3 Responses to “Question of the day”

  1. Marked Hoosier says:

    “We’re reading the first chapters of the Obama administration right now, and I must say, I don’t like the clues I see.”

    Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos. 🙂

  2. tas says:

    You voted for a Python debugger?

  3. gcotharn says:

    I think it’s a problem that America chose two candidates – Pres. Obama and Sen. McCain – who had never successfully managed “in the real world”, so to speak. We were betting on people who did not have track records of success in the management skills which are needed for the job. We were collectively denigrating “managing” as a skill. We were saying: Pish, any competent person can manage an enterprise from Day One: it’s not hard to do.

    It’s true Pres. Obama successfully managed various electoral campaigns. Yet, a campaign is a skewed circumstance (examples of skewed reality: you are intentionally burning your campaign workers out; strangers are voluntarily giving you money) which doesn’t really transfer to managing in almost any other situation.

    You write:
    “[Obama]’s a man who will see us through perilous times.
    Where did that man go?”

    It’s possible “that man” never existed.

    I mean this – and I think these are circumstances which we all can agree about: Pres. Obama succeeded academically, he succeeded electorally, and he lectured in a law school. None of that equates to actual success managing real life (so to speak) projects. Pres. Obama’s one big real life project which he managed: Chicago Annenberg Challenge, was a failure and a money pit fiasco. Community Organizer Obama’s career was undistinguished, at best. Harvard Law Review Pres. Obama’s time was notable for his “working from home” (ahem – this was tongue in cheek slang for doing nothing) while his assistant churned out the Law Review. Law Review Pres. Obama would occasionally sweep into the Law Review offices, shake some hands, smile, accomplish little, then depart to “work from home”.

    Therefore, it is as if we have inserted a talented baseball managing prospect into the New York Yankees dugout. Our new manager might succeed, yet he has no track record of managing success – not in the baseball minor leagues, not in any endeavor. He managed a Little League team and rarely showed up to team practices. He was Pres. of his Little League, yet the Little League squandered monies on failed projects which never came to fruition. But the new manager does appear talented, and we’re willing to gamble that he will successfully manage the Yankees.

    This is just not smart. We should let the new guy successfully manage the Charleston River Dogs, or maybe the Staten Island Yankees, before we bring him to the Bronx. There are lessons to be learned for every new manager. Also, not every person is cut out to be a successful manager.

    It would’ve been the same with McCain. McCain had no track record of managing success. Did we really want to entrust McCain to manage the New York Yankees over a 162 game season? We like McCain for onfield brawls, maybe; and for sniping in the media, definitely. But maybe not to manage personalities and make decisions over a long, long season. McCain might have succeeded in the Bronx, yet it would have been an unnecessarily risky gamble for management to take.

    America should have more respect for the difficulties of managing. We ought try – if at all possible – to nominate persons who have some track record of success at managing. Pres. Obama may succeed, yet he was an unnecessarily risky choice. Our nation ought take smarter and lesser risks when possible (including taking a lesser risk than Sen. McCain represented).

    It’s unsurprising that Pres. Obama is making rookie manager mistakes. I hope he has the instincts to rebound, to learn on the job, and to effectively serve in the office. I hope his mistakes have not already buried both his Presidency and our nation.

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