Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Obama's Doing Just Fine

In the wake of the BP crisis and a sagging economy, some commentators have taken to saying that it is now clear that Obama is not up to the job and that he’s the 2000’s version of Jimmy Carter (who in my estimation wasn’t that bad). For the record, I think much of the criticism and handwringing is overblown.

There is little else Obama can do about the oil crisis. It’s been said many times that people know that he can’t just plug the hole himself. The federal government simply does not possess equipment or expertise that BP doesn’t. The only decent charge I’ve heard so far is that Obama has let certain measures like building barrier islands in the gulf channel get bogged down in the bureaucracy, which is unfortunate. But the main charge seems to be that Obama hasn’t shown enough emotion. The wisdom of the day is that he needs to show voters that “he feels their pain.” What exactly is Obama supposed to do though? Crying won’t cut it for a President. Neither will throwing a temper tantrum as it won’t appear natural on him and would hinder rational consideration of how to actually solve the crisis besides.

The economy is still not where we want it yet. But recovering from an economic crisis of this magnitude will take time. When Ronald Reagan took office amid a recession in 1981 (likely a less serious one than this), recovery didn’t begin in earnest until early 1983. Yet today the man is lionized on the right and fondly remembered in other quarters. Granted, we may have a double-dip recession as some economists fear, but right now I’m not ready to say Obama has failed to show sufficient leadership because the economy is still sluggish. Not coincidentally, Democratic strategists should take heart about the President’s political prospects. Just because his poll numbers have faltered in recent months doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have a good shot at winning reelection in 2012. If the economy starts picking up, I’m confident that he will win and that Democrats can win back some of the seats they lose this November.

Far from being ineffectual, Obama already has a considerable record of significant actions even if one disagrees with those actions. He won a nearly $800 billion stimulus package, the largest expansion of the welfare state since Great Society and the War on Poverty with the passage of Obamacare earlier this year, and the passage in both houses of a significant overhaul of financial regulation which a conference committee is working on this week. Progressives at least should take heart in how much Obama has been able to accomplish since taking office.

I think all of this hints at shortsightedness among the punditocracy, and assuming their posts and articles accurately represent public opinion, the average voter. People want results immediately, which is understandable. But I cannot join the bandwagon that says Obama isn’t up to today’s challenges. Give the man more time.