Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Obama at 50 Days

Obama is halfway through his first 100 days. How well does his performance match his rhetoric? Remember, he set a high standard for himself with comparisons to Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan. He made a lot of promises during his campaign (at least twice as many as most candidates make). Many of these were going to be top priority tasks. He also insisted that he was holding his appointees to a higher standard than every before.

Most of his accomplishments have been simple stroke-of-the-pen presidential orders reversing Bush policies. He has strung these out for maximum effect. His order on stem-cell research which was signed this week could have been signed six weeks ago.

Aside from signing new versions of a couple of pieces of legislation that Bush vetoed, Obama's major legislative accomplishment has been the stimulus bill. While the White House staff was celebrating its passage, this bill will come back to haunt him. First, it was passed as being so urgent that Congress could not be given time to read it but Obama took three days from passage until he signed it. That's three days that Congress could have used to find out what they were passing. Obviously the urgency was to keep the opposition from seeing what was included.

Combined with the omnibus spending bill that was just sent to Obama's office, discretionary spending is up 80% over last year. A lot of this goes into the baseline budget for next year which will permanently increase government spending. The Omnibus spending bill alone increases spending by 8%. Some items in the stimulus will also increase the baseline but no one has documented these, yet. This is one place that the stimulus will come back to haunt Obama.

Obama's biggest mark has been on the economy in general and the stock market in particular. Both are tanking and Obama has a lot to do with this.

While selling the stimulus, Obama stressed how bad the economy is. As soon as it was passed he submitted his first budget which projected that the recession would end in the middle of this year, long before the stimulus could have any effect. Either he lied when he said that the stimulus was urgent or he lied when he made his budget projections.

The budget proposal calls for new taxes, carbon fees, and makes a "down payment" on universal health care. It does not give details on any of these. This is contributing to the uneasiness on Wall Street. Obama's obvious disdain for Wall Street also contributes the the worsening economy.

Obama's cabinet and staff have been a major embarrassment. He has set new records for the number of officials forced to withdraw their nominations. The Treasury Department is missing most of the people at the top and is making due with a crowd of unappointed advisers instead of 17 deputies. As the economy continues to sink, this is arguably this is the most important department in the government and it is understaffed at the top.

Obama has complained that he doesn't want to spend his time working on the economy. Neither did Bush, Clinton, or Reagan, all of whom took office during a recession. When you become president you are supposed to put the country first and your agenda second. Obama seems to be pursuing both at the same time giving the impression of a government that is not focused on the economy.

There are rumors that Obama is shocked at the presidential workload. Possibly he believed Michael Moore and others who painted Bush's first nine months as constant vacation. The reality is that the President never gets a day off. Even his vacations include daily briefings. Regardless of the truth of the rumors, it is obvious that Obama does not like Washington. He takes weekly field trips every Friday to some other part of the country. After scolding bank executives for using private jets, this seems hypocritical. People have noticed.

Maybe part of the problem is that there is no one to delegate to. Of the 1,200 posts that require senate confirmation, only 73 have actually been appointed.

Foreign affairs were supposed to be a strong point under Obama. That hasn't worked out so well. On his first visit to Canada he had to assure the Canadians that he was not planning on renegotiating NAFTA. The White House staff has been so focused on domestic affairs that they slighted British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Iran spurned his offer to talk. His administration offered to cancel plans to deploy an anti-missile that Russia objects to in exchange for Russian help dealing with Iran. Russia publicly rejected the offer which was the first that the countries that are to host the anti-missile system heard of the offer. Hillary offered to let the Russians push the "reset" button on relations but couldn't get a decent translation and instead offered the "overcharge" or "overload" button. They pushed it anyway.

Obama sent 13,000 additional troops to Afghanistan without a clear plan on what they will do. Relations with Pakistan are deteriorating. Closer to home, Mexican drug violence has made border towns no-go zones and is spilling over into the US. No one is suggesting the obvious first step - closing the border.

Halfway into his first 100 days it is obvious that Obama is not FDR. His administration seems at one overwhelmed, overambitious, and arrogant. Moderates who supported him over McCain are having buyer's remorse. Even reliable liberals like Paul Krugman are calling for real leadership rather than empty rhetoric. He is not off to a good start.

1 comment:

林依晨Amber said...
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