Maureen Dowd is fixated on Michelle Obama’s arms. No really. (The Times perhaps has a clause in its contracts with female columnists that they must appear frivolous and obsessed with politicians’ physiques.) But while meandering through the faux controversy over Michelle’s biceps she actually stumbles upon a substantive point: the president is not exactly a tower of inspirational strength. And it’s not just the “lame” DVD gift to Gordon Brown. Dowd complains:
As blue chips turn into penny stocks, Wall Street seems less like a symbol of America’s macho capitalism and more like that famous Jane Austen character Mrs. Bennet, a flibbertigibbet always anxious about getting richer and her “poor nerves.” The president tried to urge Americans to man-up and buy stocks. In a Times interview on Friday, he further advised us not to “suddenly stuff money” in our mattresses.
Wall Street is weak and jittery, rejecting the vague and laconic courtship of Timothy Geithner. G.M. is verging on bankruptcy, and A.I.G. should be. Americans are confused and fretful. President Obama admitted in his Times interview that the United States is not winning the war in Afghanistan, even as he denied — and then called back 90 minutes later to really deny — that he’s a socialist.
It’s a mess, really. These days the president is both dismissive (your 401K is a poll) and defensive. In the latter vein, he’s not just hounding reporters to drop the notion that he’s a Western European socialist; he’s resorting to eye-rolling misrepresentations. He was just getting warmed up with his announcement that he doesn’t like big government. The latest, from his weekly radio address:
My administration inherited a $1.3 trillion budget deficit, the largest in history. And we’ve inherited a budgeting process as irresponsible as it is unsustainable. For years, as Wall Street used accounting tricks to conceal costs and avoid responsibility, Washington did, too.
These kinds of irresponsible budgets — and inexcusable practices — are now in the past.
What about the 8000-plus earmarks in the omnibus spending bill? And the budget “cut” of $1.6 trillion achieved by not continuing the surge? Forget John F. Kennedy’s invented “missile gap” — this is an economic reality gap of unprecedented size.
And he seems to be channeling Jimmy Carter as he edges toward castigating the American people. Politico reports:
For the first time since taking office, President Obama is suggesting that some Americans may be overreacting to the nation’s economic woes by dramatically ratcheting back their spending. ‘What I don’t think people should do is suddenly stuff money in their mattresses and pull back completely from spending,’ Obama told The New York Times in an interview published on the Web Saturday. ‘I don’t think that people should be fearful about our future. I don’t think that people should suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.’
Well maybe he shouldn’t have used fear to drum up support for his stimulus plan. But he’s coming perilously close to calling us all a bunch of scaredy cats.
Obama seems badly misinformed about the lives of real people. He resorts to spin or outright lies rather than engage on the merits. (Why are we raising taxes and pursuing cap and trade while the economy is skidding?) He gins up the panic and then admonishes the voters not to panic. He’s unduly sensitive to criticism and yet impervious to something as fundamental as the impact of a stock market crash.
So it’s no wonder his aides are attacking a radio talk show host and Dowd is ruminating about the first lady’s arms. The rest is too painful to watch.