I can’t read or tolerate reading anything negative about President-Elect Obama. It’s not because I’m thin-skinned; rather, the man hasn’t stepped foot into the White House yet and already the media are holding him up to FDR-like standards.
But I do agree with many pundits that the first 100 days are going to be critical for his administration, not only to boost sagging economic morale but to keep American jobs on the table that will have been lost between now and mid-January. But I think folks need to be careful not to fall into a still-working campaign of fear and cynicism driven by the last election; afterall, questions are still being raised around Obama’s citizenship.
Steve Clemons, of The Washington Note, makes the case that expectations around Obama’s capacity are far too large and I believe he’s right. It’s driving both unrealistic expectations and setting him up for a fall based on the ineptitude of the current administration:
Clemons: I think that we’ve replaced the housing bubble in the United States with an Obama bubble. There are so many hopes not just in the United States but around the world that he’s going to produce in just sort of stunning ways on all kinds of policy challenges that are out there. As he begins to define and scope what his real priorities are and are going to be, and as he brings in his team, I think that that bubble is going to deflate. Bubbles, in the economic sense, can be very, very good. They can lay a lot of railroad tracks, they can create a lot of cheap I.T. infrastructure. Lots of folks will end up losing, but what’s going to be very important when Obama runs to the end of his honeymoon is whether he has created enough strategic shifts for the United States so that we can get back in the global game, and that there’s some resurgence of hope for the American and global economies.
And right now, I’m a real pessimist. The challenges he has are Herculean. I think when he comes into office, he has enormous support and he has got a kind of Reagan-like mandate in the sense that when Reagan came in after the Iran hostage crisis, high oil prices, high inflation and low morale in the country, Reagan had the ability to cite the crisis we were in as a way to break the bank on all the money he spent on defense. And Obama’s going to have that same ability to spend on infrastructure, keep the middle class working, but also to do other big shifts. I don’t know how long that is going to last, but he’s got to front-load it. If he goes cautious leading into it, I think the half-life of Obama’s strength and the bubble that he has are going to deteriorate very rapidly.
There’s no reason, politically or ideologically, for Obama to “go cautious.” He’ll be spending big and he has the political capital to do so. The question is where does he get the real capital to spend?