View Full Version : Howard Fineman: Already Counting the Ways.....

March 11th 09, 02:00 AM

Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him, at least
judging by the latest polls, including NEWSWEEK's. But, in ways both
large and small, what's left of the American establishment is taking
his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him

If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force,
churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and from
what remains of corporate America. Much of what they are saying is
contradictory, but all of it is focused on the president:

* The $787 billion stimulus, gargantuan as it was, was in fact too
small and not aimed clearly enough at only immediate job-creation.
* The $275 billion home-mortgage-refinancing plan, assembled by
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, is too complex and indirect.
* The president gave up the moral high ground on spending not so much
with the "stim" but with the $400 billion supplemental spending bill,
larded as it was with 9,000 earmarks.
* The administration is throwing good money after bad in at least two
cases—the sinkhole that is Citigroup (there are many healthy banks)
and General Motors (they deserve what they get).
* The failure to call for genuine sacrifice on the part of all
Americans, despite the rhetorical claim that everyone would have to
"give up" something.
* A willingness to give too much leeway to Congress to handle crucial
details, from the stim to the vague promise to "reform" medical care
without stating what costs could be cut.
* A 2010 budget that tries to do far too much, with way too rosy
predictions on future revenues and growth of the economy. This led
those who fear we are about to go over Niagara Falls to deride Obama
as a paddler who'd rather redesign the canoe.
* A treasury secretary who has been ridiculed on "Saturday Night Live"
and compared to Doogie Howser, Barney Fife and Macaulay Culkin in
"Home Alone"—and those are the nice ones.
* A seeming paralysis in the face of the banking crisis: unwilling to
nationalize banks, yet unable to figure out how to handle toxic assets
in another way—by, say, setting up a "bad bank" catch basin.
* A seeming reluctance to seek punishing prosecutions of the
malefactors of the last 15 years—and even considering a plea bargain
for Bernie Madoff, the poster thief who stole from charities and Nobel
laureates and all the grandparents of Boca. Yes, prosecutors are in
charge, but the president is entitled—some would say required—to
demand harsh justice.
* The president, known for his eloquence and attention to detail,
seemingly unwilling or unable to patiently, carefully explain how the
world works—or more important, how it failed. Using FDR's fireside
chats as a model, Obama needs to explain the banking system in
laymen's terms. An ongoing seminar would be great.
* Obama is no socialist, but critics argue that now is not the time
for costly, upfront spending on social engineering in health care,
energy or education.

Other than all that, in the eyes of the big shots, he is doing fine.
The American people remain on his side, but he has to be careful that
the gathering judgment of the Bigs doesn't trickle down to the rest of