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The Clock Is Ticking

On a different track, Politico's Jim VandeHei and John Harris lay out reasons for skepticism.

"Amid all these high hopes, it may seem needlessly sour to point out why expectations must be kept in check," the duo write, then offer "seven reasons to be skeptical of Obama's chances -- and the Washington establishment he now leads." Here's a sampling:

"The genius fallacy. There is no disputing Obama has built a Cabinet of sharp and experienced public officials. His staff, especially on national security and economic matters, is often praised as brilliant -- and that's by Republicans. But recent history teaches us to be wary of the larger-than-life Washington figures supposedly striding across history's stage. Consider the economy. Everyone seems to agree Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner are smart, vastly qualified to manage and repair the economy. Everyone was saying the exact same things about the two economic geniuses of the 1990s: Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan. Now Rubin has been reduced to making excuses for his involvement in high-risk investments and for helping oversee the demise of Citigroup, which lost $10 billion in the past three months alone. The onetime oracular Greenspan has admitted to Congress that his once-revered economic philosophy had 'a flaw,' and many blame him for turning a blind eye to the housing bubble . . .

"Words, words, words . . . Obama seems to have a different view of the presidency. He thinks that the right decisions can be reached by putting reasonable and enlightened people together and reaching a consensus. He believes his job as president is to educate and inspire, largely matters of style. He knows he is good with words. He knows he has great style. So that's why he projects exceptional confidence in his ability to do the job. We don't know yet how justified Obama is in his self-confidence -- or how naive. . . .

"The watchdogs are dozing. The big media companies that once invested in serious accountability journalism are shells of their former selves. The Tribune Co. -- in other words, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune -- has slashed its Washington staff by more than half. Newspaper chains such as Cox are fleeing D.C. altogether. The end result: There are few reporters in this country doing the kind of investigative reporting that hold government officials' feet to the fire. . . .

"Rigorous reporting is even more important when you have one-party rule in Washington. Democrats, like Republicans, are simply less likely to scrutinize a president of their own."

Congressional Dems, when they were in charge, certainly did more oversight of Carter and Clinton than the GOP did during the Bush years. If they roll over for the new president, we should get on their case.

Washington Monthly's Steve Benen objects to another bit of Politico criticism, that O hasn't challenged his own team:

"For one thing, Obama has 'offended his own party's constituencies' more than a few times, both during and after the campaign. Before the election, Obama was at odds with Democrats over FISA and the financial industry bailout, and after the election, he frustrated party constituencies on everything from cabinet selections to Lieberman to Rick Warren to tax cuts in the stimulus bill.

"For another, what difference does it make? Or more to the point, why on earth would Obama's chances of success as president be dependent on his willingness to disagree frequently with his own party?"

No, but it does depend in part on his ability not to become a captive of Democratic Party orthodoxy and constituent groups.

So what did the new president get done on Day One?

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