Here’s the thing. I know Tea Party Republicans were behind the debt-ceiling standoff that wreaked needless damage on confidence in the United States. I wrote weeks ago of Standard & Poor’s outrageous nerve in threatening a downgrade when America’s ability to pay its debts can’t possibly be in doubt. In short, I know who the real villains are at this volatile moment.
So why am I so mad at Barack Obama?
A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the host of the new podcast “This...Is Interesting,” Miller writes a weekly column for The Post.
Obama gets his head handed to him
I know I’m not alone. In conversations with folks across the center-left in recent days, everyone’s basically had it with the president. I’ve had policy frustrations before: Obama’s never aimed high enough on school reform and he’s failed miserably to advance a real jobs agenda, to name just two. I’ve said repeatedly that we need a third party to shake things up. But at the same time a part of me has always cut the president some slack — after all, look at the mess the man walked into! Yet somehow the debt-ceiling fiasco and the downgrade, punctuated by these horrific jobs numbers and stock market gyrations, has made something in me (and, I suspect, millions of others) snap.
It’s the sound of confidence in Obama’s leadership breaking.
Yes, other forces may be “responsible” for the bad news. But in the end a president has the most power to shape the debate. How could Obama have let the entirely foreseeable debt-ceiling standoff turn into a hostage drama? Why didn’t he have the spine to say “send me a clean debt limit increase or I’ll raise it myself and see you in court”? How could he leave us in a position where every future debt-limit hike now becomes an occasion for blackmail? And where Chinese officials can blithely say that “the U.S. government has to come to terms with the painful fact that the good old days when it could just borrow its way out of messes of its own making are finally gone”?
Events keep screaming that the president is weak, weak, weak. That this can happen so soon after his gutsy call to take down Osama Bin Laden is striking. First the president gets rolled on the debt limit. Then S&P lowers the boom. Then China piles on. Then the White House rushes out word that Tim Geithner is staying put. Can anyone explain exactly who that news was meant to reassure? It can’t be that we’ll all now breathe easier because Geithner-crafted policy has been such a smashing success. So is this move a function of Obama’s fear of not being able to get a new Treasury nominee confirmed — or his inability to attract someone of stature for what could be an unpleasant one-year stint? Either way, it smells weak.
Then there’s the president’s measurably ineffective pep talk as the market plunged on Monday. And the cynically inadequate “pivot” to jobs. Coupled with what will surely be a more-than-ample pivot to character assassination, with news that Team Obama’s plan for 2012 is to metaphorically “kill” Mitt Romney.
Now, I’m happy to stipulate that Romney is a craven flip-flopper and maybe even a mistreater of dogs. But when 25 million Americans can’t find full-time work, hearing macho strategists speak with glee of this coming assault seems truly off key.