Obamacons and Buyers’ Remorse
Earlier today, I took Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Buckley to task for their seeming surprise that Obama is a big spender. Some, including Steven Taylor, responded that they, like other center-right types who supported Obama, were aware that he would often make policy choices they would disagree with but were simply choosing between bad alternatives.
While I take their point, I believe that’s misguided. Yes, we have a two party system and are therefore invariably faced with candidates with whom we disagree, sometimes even on fundamental issues. But Sullivan, in particular, was an Obama enthusiast, not merely a reluctant supporter of him as The Least Bad Option (as I was with McCain). Obama made no secret that, if elected president, he would massively increase social spending programs and pay for it by a combination of deficit spending and soaking the “rich” (only the top 5 percent will see any tax increase at all!). So, it strikes me as peculiar for Obamacons to lambaste Obama for doing what he said he was going to do at the strategic concept level.
To illustrate a contrasting situation where Obama defenders have a legitimate gripe, one has only to turn to … Andrew Sullivan and his post “Has Anyone Seen Tim Geithner?” (and which was apparently originally conceived as “How Useless is Tim Geithner?”).
I’m a pretty sympathetic Obama supporter. I’d like to know what the Treasury secretary actually proposes with respect to the banking crisis. Is that really too much to ask? Maybe he’ll tell us today. Who knows? He should be a critical force in explaining the government’s economic policies, and yet he seems incapable of conveying anything to the American public whom he serves. He came across in his debut as a terrified intern who hadn’t mastered his brief. And his political presence since has been pathetic.
I know there are issues of confidence in talking out loud about all this; and I’ve aired many of the arguments against bank nationalization. But the markets are tanking because they don’t have any certainty about where the administration intends to take us. Geithner is a liability in this respect. So far, he’s drained confidence, not built it.
Obama supporters saw in him a competent technocrat which they contrasted with the bumbling, ideological approach of Bush. Geithner was presented as the Ãœber Wonk, a man whose extraordinary competence was so unique and so necessary to saving us from economic calamity that his tax issues had to be overlooked. Thus far, he’s been a disappointment.
In one case, then, we have complaints from Obama supporters about Obama doing the main thing he said he was going to do. In the second case, we have complaints from Obama supporters than he’s not living up to his promise. The latter strikes me as much more reasonable.
Image courtesy The Economist