Obama's Bear Market

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 4, 2009; 9:54 AM

It was 7:05 yesterday morning, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, when Jim Cramer shorted Barack Obama.

This wasn't Cramer the hothead, off on a rant about some stock. It wasn't Cramer the flamethrower, as I'd seen him behave as a hedge-fund manager, winning or losing millions within minutes, when I was writing a book about Wall Street.

No, the Mad Money man was calm and composed as he accused Obama of pursuing a "radical agenda." This, he said, "is the greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president."

The reason this is noteworthy is that Cramer is a liberal Democrat who, for example, strongly backed his former Goldman Sachs colleague Jon Corzine for New Jersey governor.

I'm not sure it holds up to blame Obama for the market swoon five weeks after he inherited an economic disaster. But if Cramer is doing just that, the parameters of the debate are shifting.

You could see it at yesterday's Gordon Brown photo op, when Obama said that stocks were a good long-term investment. You could see it at the White House briefing, where ABC's Jake Tapper asked: "Is the president at all concerned that what he's selling, Wall Street just isn't buying?"

Despite these mounting woes, Obama "is more popular than ever, Americans are hopeful about his leadership, and opposition Republicans are getting drubbed in public opinion, the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds. . . . By a margin of more than 2-1, Americans trust the Democratic Party over the Republicans to get the country out of the recession." Obama is at 60; Michelle at 63.

So the polls are going in the right direction and the Dow in the wrong direction.

"President Obama said Tuesday that he is not intently focused on the 'day-to-day gyrations of the stock market,' comparing the downward roller-coaster on Wall Street to the fickle nature of political polls," the NYT reports.

" 'You know, it bobs up and down day to day,' Mr. Obama said. 'And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you're probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.' "

Now that Obama is pushing a $3.6 trillion budget, the battle lines are being drawn more starkly. Conservatives are crying big government -- and, let's face it, it's pretty big, with the feds expected to hire 100,000 new employees by some estimates -- while liberals say Obama was elected to change the country's direction and dig us out of this huge financial hole. But one person who's been a past admirer of Obama is now openly disenchanted. Take it away, David Brooks:

"There is, entailed in it, a promiscuous unwillingness to set priorities and accept trade-offs. There is evidence of a party swept up in its own revolutionary fervor -- caught up in the self-flattering belief that history has called upon it to solve all problems at once.

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