POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Krugman on Obama … a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction … LMW adds: unless our president learns how to use the considerable power he has (less than before but still great) his presidency will continue to flounder and disappoint

Posted by Lew Weinstein on December 4, 2010

Paul Krugman wrote in the NYT (12/3/10) …

  • After the Democratic “shellacking” in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?
  • On Monday, we got the answer: he announced a pay freeze for federal workers.
  • This was an announcement that had it all. It was transparently cynical; it was trivial in scale, but misguided in direction; and by making the announcement, Mr. Obama effectively conceded the policy argument to the very people who are seeking — successfully, it seems — to destroy him.
  • freezing federal pay is cynical deficit-reduction theater … that only sounds impressive to people who don’t know anything about budget realities.
  • Anyway, slashing federal spending at a time when the economy is depressed is exactly the wrong thing to do.
  • Meanwhile, there’s a real deficit issue on the table: whether tax cuts for the wealthy will, as Republicans demand, be extended.
  • over the next 75 years the cost of making those tax cuts permanent would be roughly equal to the entire expected financial shortfall of Social Security.
  • It’s hard to escape the impression that Republicans have taken Mr. Obama’s measure — that they’re calling his bluff in the belief that he can be counted on to fold. And it’s also hard to escape the impression that they’re right.
  • The real question is what Mr. Obama and his inner circle are thinking. Do they really believe, after all this time, that gestures of appeasement to the G.O.P. will elicit a good-faith response?
  • What’s even more puzzling is the apparent indifference of the Obama team to the effect of such gestures on their supporters. One would have expected a candidate who rode the enthusiasm of activists to an upset victory in the Democratic primary to realize that this enthusiasm was an important asset. Instead, however, Mr. Obama almost seems as if he’s trying, systematically, to disappoint his once-fervent supporters, to convince the people who put him where he is that they made an embarrassing mistake.
  • Whatever is going on inside the White House, from the outside it looks like moral collapse — a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction.


President Obama is a smart guy. He has excellent ideas about what the country needs. He’s even accomplished a lot of the agenda he campaigned on. But unless he learns how to use the considerable power he has (less than before but still great) his presidency will continue to flounder and disappoint.

Instead, he continues to seek compromise with Republicans who will not compromise. He repeatedly avoids taking a stand – gays in the military, TSA scanning and pat-downs, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. He does not act presidential.

He is not acting like the man I expected him to be, and worked so hard and so enthusiastically to get elected.


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