100 days: What Obama does not want you to read
posted at 9:08 am on April 28, 2009 by Karl
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Last week, the Politico offered a handy list of seven things the White House wants reporters to write about Pres. Obama’s first 100 days in office. The piece makes a nice enough frame for evaluating whether the Obama’s hoped-for spin matches reality.
Obama is a promise-keeper?
Obama undoubtedly would like this storyline, but the Politico did not come up with any examples of it. Obama has kept a few promises; he has given things to the abortion lobby, usually late on Friday evenings when he hopes no one will notice.
However, it is fairly easy to compile a larger list of promises Obama has broken or is breaking. Many of those broken promises are just fine with the Right — Obama has adopted the Bush adminsitration’s positions on lawsuits over “torture,” warrantless wiretapping, state secrets and policies the powers that allow the president to indefinitely detain suspected terror supporters. The administration is negotiating possible exceptions to the June 30 deadline for withdrawing American combat troops from Iraqi cities (as he should, given that his retreatist rhetoric worked against his own stated goals). Obama has flip-flopped on the free-trade pact with Colombia and NAFTA. Even before he was elected, he broke his promises to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil (though one suspects they are still on his “to do” list).
Other broken promises will tend to bother only the Right, like the abandonment of his inaugural pledge to end ineffective government programs.
Still other promises Obama has broken are more troubling — and not just to the Right. The adminsitration that promised transparency has shrouded some of its signature inititives in secrecy. The Obama Administration is not policing its stimulus spending for waste, fraud and abuse, not doing the legally-required oversight of TARP funds and not providing information to the Congressional Oversight Panel on TARP. Attorney General Eric Holder promised looser standards for Freedom of Information Act requests, but the lawsuits seeking information about the administration’s bailout programs are piling up. Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general overseeing the TARP, has already opened 20 criminal investigations and six audits into whether tax dollars are being pilfered or wasted.
Obama is a game-changer?
This is actually two of the Politico’s entries. In discussing Obama as promise-keeper and game-changer, VandeHei and Harris write:
The White House is pushing back against what it realizes is a dangerous perception that Obama may be trying to do too much, too fast — and cynically exploiting the economic crisis to push through unrelated agenda items…
The White House is worried that the public does not sufficiently grasp Obama’s view that his ideas fit together in a coherent strategy to force massive change in government, the financial sector and, ultimately, people’s lives.
It is small wonder Obama is having a tough time pushing this line. His own supporters do not buy it. The establishment media does not buy it (as the Politico itself notes). Democrats in Congress do not buy it, either. Obama’s own party has rolled him on any number of issues, supposedly in return for healthcare reform. The Democrats now threaten to railroad it through the budget reconciliation process, but the lack of money and the Byrd Rule provide plenty of leverage against it. Meanwhile, Lefties are already worried about what else Obama gave up to get healthcare in budget reconciliation.
Has Obama been a game-changer on the world stage? Obama’s diplomatic overtures have been rejected by the European Union, NATO, Russia, North Korea, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Iran and much of Latin America. Obama’s unprecedented disclosure of CIA operational methods is already degrading US intelligence collection around the world. That might be game-changing, but not of the sort Obama wants the press to publicize.
Obama is the decider?
Not too long ago, a president pushing the idea that he was “the decider” would have been mocked by the media, but whatever. The Los Angeles Times and The Politico point to Obama’s White House confrontation with bank executives as an example of his bold style. However, the result of Obama’s bullying — as well as his handling of the AIG bonuses issue — is that banks are now trying to leave the TARP. The administration has also had problems getting lenders to participate in the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility and the Public-Private Investment Program because lenders have lost any trust that Obama and the Democratic Congress will not change the rules in midstream for reasons of political expediency.
Obama’s not in the bubble?
The Politico notes that ABC, The Washington Post and The New York Times have already done stories about how the president reads 10 letters from ordinary Americans every day. (Presumably, none of them are from Joe the Plumber, who was villified and investigated by local authorities for the crime of asking then-candidate Obama a question about his proposals.) There is considerably less media coverage when his “town hall” meetings are packed with pre-selected Obama supporters (much like his predecessor), or when he spends more time schmoozing celebrities than either Bush or Clinton (and seeking policy advice from them). Elkhart, Indiana, which has the country’s highest unemployment rate, would be crushed by Obama’s policies on energy and the environment. In South Carolina, ordinary Obama supporters are exhausted and losing patience with his agenda. When hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans organize protests of his policies, the White House would prefer not to acknowledge it.
Obama is not FDR and Obama is FDR!
The Politico reports that the Obama administration knows “there is a danger in investing too much in an essentially bogus journalistic convention that supposes Obama can reshape Washington and the world in 100 days,” but “White House aides make clear they love the New Deal analogies.” That conflict reflects a certain level of narcissism — one that seems to flow from the very top.
Obama is one cool cucumber?
Obama certainly tries to project the image of cool, but this could turn into a liability. People may have laughed when Obama could not muster convincing fauxtrage over the AIG bonuses, but the White House later found itself in a scramble to stay ahead of the genuine — if misplaced — anger on the issue. Obama’s reputation may also cast doubt on the claim that he was “furious” after an Air Force One lookalike and two F-16s buzzed the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor Monday morning. If the economy does not recover in a reasonable timeframe, more people will start seeing him as aloof, not cool.
The press narratives selected by the Politico are… selective. Other storylines abound. For example, the media will likely not address Obama’s failure at basic executive tasks, like staffing his administration. Obama is heading into its first medical outbreak without a secretary of Health and Human Services or appointees in any of the department’s 19 key posts. There were difficulties planning the G20 summit because every senior post in the US Treasury Department was vacant, with the exception of Secretary Timmy Geithner. Speaking of whom, Geithner reminds us of the large number of scandal-plagued nominees that emerged from Obama’s apparently flawed vetting operation. Again, these are stores that get glossed over during a president’s honeymoon, but will be remembered if future events are not to Obama’s favor.
After 100 days of unprecedented, saturation media coverage, Pres. Obama finds himself with an average level of public approval that masks how deeply polarized that public opinion is. Rest assured, that is not on any list of what the White House wants reporters to write about Pres. Obama’s first 100 days in office.