Broder is shocked by Obama’s ambitious agenda
David Broder has been in Washington for a long time, and President Obama seems to have stunned him with the breadth and boldness of his agenda. Broder sees Obama taking on significant risks, and he’s right about that. Obama doesn’t want to play it safe – he wants to seize the moment and make real efforts to solve long-standing problems.
The size of the gamble that President Obama is taking every day is simply staggering. What came through in his speech to a joint session of Congress and a national television audience Tuesday night was a dramatic reminder of the unbelievable stakes he has placed on the table in his first month in office, putting at risk the future well-being of the country and the Democratic Party’s control of Washington.
It was also, and even more significantly, a measure of the degree to which he has taken personal responsibility for delivering on one of the most ambitious agendas any newly inaugurated president has ever announced.
Most politicians, facing an economic crisis as deep as this one — the threatened collapse of the job market and manufacturing, retail and credit systems here at home, along with the staggering, unprecedented costs of the attempted rescue efforts — would happily postpone tackling anything else.
But not Obama.
Instead, no sooner had he finished describing his plans for spurring economic recovery and shoring up the crippled automotive and banking industries, he was off to the races, outlining his ambitions for overhauling energy, health care and education.
The House chamber was filled with veteran legislators who have spent decades wrestling with each of those issues. They know how maddeningly difficult it has been to cobble together a coalition large enough to pass a significant education, health care or energy bill.
And here stood Obama, challenging them to do all three, at a time when trillions of borrowed dollars already have been committed to short-term economic rescue schemes and when new taxes risk stunting any recovery.
Is he naive? Does he not understand the political challenge he is inviting?
Broder ends this column with the following line: “When we elected Obama, we didn’t know what a gambler we were getting.”
In one sense, he shouldn’t be surprised. Obama was clear about all these initiatives during the campaign. On the other hand, Broder is used to seeing politicians who are too worried about politics and too timid to take bold chances. Obama is not one of those politicians.
They’re just getting started
Now that the stimulus package has been approved, Fortune offers an inside look at Barack Obama’s economic team.
At this White House there’s no time to settle in. Even as their wall art sat in bubble wrap, Obama’s economic team was pushing through Congress the most expensive emergency spending package in the nation’s history. And they were helping Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner craft his own sweeping plan to rescue the nation’s banking and housing sectors, phase two of a $700 billion effort launched by his predecessor, Hank Paulson.
That’s just the start. The team is fast at work on health-care reform, energy independence, vast changes in banking regulations, and the possibility of a “grand bargain” to curb entitlement costs that envisions historic sacrifices on both sides of the aisle: Republicans supporting tax increases and Democrats conceding to benefits cuts. “This is not a small-ball President,” says Summers, Obama’s top economic advisor and chair of the National Economic Council. “He wants to take on the large issues.”
There is a breadth and breathlessness to these under-takings, a frenzy of policymaking that will shape the contours of America’s economic future. Top Obama advisors who talked (often as they walked) with Fortune in early February put a premium on speed – speed to catch the right moment to turn around a deepening recession, speed to take advantage of this moment of crisis to put in place a Democratic vision of government’s role, speed to pass major legislation while the President is riding high in the polls. Obama’s White House has been endlessly compared to Lincoln’s team of rivals, or J.F.K.’s best and brightest. But we might also toss in the image of Sandra Bullock trying to control a runaway busload of passengers before the bomb goes off. (That scene was of course from the movie – “Speed.”)
It’s becoming clear that the upcoming budget will drive home Obama’s desire to pursue a very ambitios agenda.
The President’s first budget, expected to be unveiled by budget director Peter Orszag within weeks, will chart much of the administration’s ambitious course beyond stimulus and TARP – and it will be a document that Obama’s own shop, not Congress, produces. “In his budget the President is going to lay down markers around his seriousness on all the major issues,” notes Summers.
It’s likely that the decisions and debates on these issues – ranging from health-care reform to what government programs should be cut to ease the deficit – will keep on coming at Congress at mind-numbing speed. The President wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m anxious to see which cuts they will be proposing. Our current budget is littered with programs that waste money, from farm subsidies, unnecessary weapons systems and much of the war on drugs. It’s also littered with tax loopholes bought by lobbyists, along with ridiculous restrictions preventing the government from negotiating bulk prices for drugs purchased by Medicare. If Obama can offer some serious cuts here, he’ll gain considerable credibility in his attempt to reorder the priorities of the nation.
Posted in: Democrats, Drug War, Economy, Policy
Tags: banking regulations, Barack Obama's economic team, budget director, Energy Independence, farm subsidies, grand bargain on entitlements, Hank Paulson, health care reform, Larry Summers, Medicare, Medicare bulk purchasing, National Economic Council, Obama administration, Obama budget, Obama budget proposal, Obama's ambitious budget, Peter Orszag, tax loopholes, Tim Geithner, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, unnecessary weapons systems, war on drugs
Ed Rendell – another lame speech
I know he’s not speaking in prime time, so the crowd really wasn’t ready for a big speech, but Ed Rendell laid an egg with his speech on energy.
The substance was great, but the delivery was terrible. He rushed through it, and didn’t give the crowd a chance to get involved.
He made some great points that hopefully he’ll repeat in interviews. He focused on John McCain’s record of voting against initiatives for clean energy or energy independence. These themes need to be repeated over and over again. Hopefully other speakers will pick up on the theme and do a better job.
For example, McCain keeps saying that he favors a strategy of “all of the above,” meaning that he favors drilling and all other approaches. The problem is that he has consistently opposed ALL of these in the past. He’s a total fraud on this issue. On this point, Rendell’s speech just didn’t go far enough.
Clinton/McCain gas tax plan – dumbest idea yet
Michael Bloomberg chimes in on the latest pander from Clinton and McCain.
Tom Friedman is even tougher on these lame politicians.
It is great to see that we finally have some national unity on energy policy. Unfortunately, the unifying idea is so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away. Hillary Clinton has decided to line up with John McCain in pushing to suspend the federal excise tax on gasoline, 18.4 cents a gallon, for this summer’s travel season. This is not an energy policy. This is money laundering: we borrow money from China and ship it to Saudi Arabia and take a little cut for ourselves as it goes through our gas tanks. What a way to build our country.
When the summer is over, we will have increased our debt to China, increased our transfer of wealth to Saudi Arabia and increased our contribution to global warming for our kids to inherit.
BusinessWeek has a great article about the desperate need for more technicians in the wind power industry. These are excellent jobs and more students are flocking to this field as more colleges and community colleges add programs.
It’s another small example of how we will benefit economically by adding more green power instead of sending dollars overseas for oil.
Krauthammer ridicules the European strategy on Iraq
Krauthammer is pointing out the obvious – the European plan to negotiate their way out of the Iranian nuclear crisis has been a failure. He also points out that Iran has most of the leverage with their threat to cut off their oil supply if attacked or if sanctions are approved.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer any solutions or a clear alternative. Furthermore, he can’t bring himself to criticize the Bush administration, which has gone along with this policy even though they would have preferred a push for sanctions.
Also, Krauthammer will not address the possibility that Bush’s disastrous policies in Iraq have completely undermined any chance of taking on Iran. Krauthammer loves to cite Lybia as evidence that the Iraq war has had a positive effect on other regimes in the Middle East, yet he says nothing about the current maniac running Iran. Did our policies in Iraq have any effect on the elections that brought him to power? Again, only positive effects are open for discussion aong supporters of the war.
Krauthammer is often very persuasive, but he loses credibility by consistently offering rough analysis on the Europeans or the opponents of the war, yet he seems incapable of aiming that same critical fire at this administration.