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Tip-Toeing Around

The Washington Post editors can’t quite bring themselves to condemn the president outright, but they sure do give some hints that they aren’t pleased.

First, they dance around the tax cheats and dismal vetting: “The president’s admitted mistakes on nominations have served as a reminder that he is, after all, rather new to the game of national politics and the art of balancing the lofty aims of campaign pledges against the real-world demands of governing.” Translation: the transition looked great, but what’s the matter with the selection process over there?

Next, they hint that the stimulus was not what they had hoped:”The narrow and rushed passage of his stimulus package underscored the difficulty of living up to his grand promises of transparency; the campaign trail talk about not cutting deals behind closed doors yielded to the demands of the moment.” Translation: This is an embarrassing display of business as usual. (And we can’t bring ourselves to defend the substance of the stimulus because it’s a ludicrous mess.)

Then the editors can barely conceal their worry: “The immediate challenge for the new administration, one that is harder and more important than the stimulus measure, will be to bring stability to the nation’s banking system. On that task, ‘chastening’ is a mild word to apply to Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s debut of the administration’s plan. ” Translation: We went along with the tax cheat because he was supposed to be a genius and he turned out to be overwhelmed, verging on incompetent.

After that, the editors praise his special interest labor legislation (e.g. Lilly Ledbetter) and expansion of government run healthcare (S-CHIP for people making $66,000 or more), but then have to admit they are alarmed by the alarmism: “Sooner rather than later, he will have to find the right balance between reassurance and alarmism; sooner than in past administrations, he needs a full team in place.” Translation: Stop freaking us out! And, please find some more advisors who don’t have tax problems.

And finally is the warning: “Even in an age of instant gratification, Americans seem to understand that economic recovery is likely to take months, if not years. Whether this attitude will continue in the face of continued economic stress is open to question.” Translation: You’re nuts if you think all of this is going to improve the economy anytime soon.

Somewhere buried just beneath the surface of the Post’s odd bit of evasion is the sober truth: we all expected more (like some minimal effort to put the New Politics into practice), and if Geithner in particular doesn’t get his act together things are going to get a whole lot worse. Meanwhile, I anxiously await the series of op-eds on the crushing, looming and dangerous deficit — a favorite topic during the Bush and Reagan presidencies.



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