Saturday, April 25, 2009

So Far, So Good?

From Fred Barnes at the Weekly Standard:
Strong job approval, higher personal ratings"--that's pollster Andrew Kohut's assessment of President Obama at roughly the 100-day point. "A bravura performance," wrote David Broder of the Washingon Post. The president's flacks take the Muhammad Ali approach: Obama is The Greatest. What comes to my mind, however, is the guy who falls off a skyscraper and halfway down declares, "So far, so good."
Maybe there's a soft landing ahead for Obama or even a takeoff as his policies succeed. But my expectations are low. One reason is the Obama contradiction. Two of his stated goals (economic recovery, energy independence) are undermined by his actual policies. Another reason is history. There's no evidence to suggest Obama's policies of courting enemies and airing the country's supposed misdeeds will lessen threats to national security or strengthen America's role in the world.
Obama, for the moment, is riding a wave of announcements, claims, hopes, and possibilities. This is what new presidents thrive on. It's what makes them popular, especially because there's no accountability. But a year from now, perhaps sooner, the joy ride will be over. Results will matter. Obama's policies will either be working or not. And if not, even a friendly media won't be able to sugarcoat the bad news or alleviate the political consequences.
The economy is Obama's biggest problem. According to his projections, a sharp recovery will begin this fall and accelerate in 2010. It's doubtful the president's economic advisers believe this scenario, though they're forced to defend it publicly. The $787 billion "stimulus" package probably won't help because its vast spending is backloaded past next year. And it's not very stimulative in the first place.
It's true the American economy is resilient. Its natural tendency is to grow, leaving recessions behind. What arouses this appetite for growth are incentives to invest that, in time, produce a booming economy and new jobs. But rather than incentives, Obama favors impediments: tax hikes for the investor class, more regulation, higher energy prices. He's created the most antibusiness climate in Washington since the New Deal. The best hope for a robust recovery is the trillions in liquidity that Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke has injected into the economy. That will surely help, but who knows how much, when, or at what cost in inflation.
Presidential honeymoons don't last. Trouble catches up with presidents in many forms: unexpected events, screw-ups at the White House, egregious decisions, failures of policy, and worst of all, a bad economy that lingers. Obama is clever and persuasive, but he's not immune to the way the world works.

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