Having endorsed Obama, The Economist is now having regrets:
Despite his resounding electoral victory, his solid majorities in both chambers of Congress and the obvious goodwill of the bulk of the electorate, Mr Obama has seemed curiously feeble.
Empty posts, weak policies
There are two main reasons for this. The first is Mr Obama’s failure to grapple as fast and as single-mindedly with the economy as he should have done. His stimulus package, though huge, was subcontracted to Congress, which did a mediocre job: too much of the money will arrive too late to be of help in the current crisis. His budget, though in some ways more honest than his predecessor’s, is wildly optimistic. And he has taken too long to produce his plan for dealing with the trillions of dollars of toxic assets which fester on banks’ balance-sheets.
The failure to staff the Treasury is a shocking illustration of administrative drift. There are 23 slots at the department that need confirmation by the Senate, and only two have been filled. This is not the Senate’s fault. Mr Obama has made a series of bad picks of people who have chosen or been forced to withdraw; and it was only this week that he announced his candidates for two of the department’s four most senior posts. Filling such jobs is always a tortuous business in America, but Mr Obama has made it harder by insisting on a level of scrutiny far beyond anything previously attempted. Getting the Treasury team in place ought to have been his first priority.
Second, Mr Obama has mishandled his relations with both sides in Congress. Though he campaigned as a centrist and promised an era of post-partisan government, that’s not how he has behaved. His stimulus bill attracted only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House. This bodes ill for the passage of more difficult projects, such as his big plans for carbon-emissions control and health-care reform. Keeping those promises will soon start to bedevil the administration. The Republicans must take their share of the blame for the breakdown. But if Mr Obama had done a better job of selling his package, and had worked harder at making sure that Republicans were included in drafting it, they would have found it more difficult to oppose his plans.
And don’t get me started on foreign policy.
James points out,
Obama, alas, is the worst of both worlds, having neither gubernatorial experience nor much Washington experience. He’s been an incredibly talented dilettante, getting elected to one job and then the next without learning the ropes. He’s a fast learner and will get the hang of it but, to come back to the Hillary Clinton quip that starts the Economist piece, “the Oval Office is no place for on-the-job-training.” Except, as already noted, that it usually is.
But now we’re hearing “buyer’s regret” from The Economist – and it’s not even 100 days yet. Mark Steyn thinks it’s going to be a long four years:
This is the point: The nuancey boys were wrong on Obama, and the knuckledragging morons were right. There is no post-partisan centrist “grappling” with the economy, only a transformative radical willing to make Americans poorer in the cause of massive government expansion. At some point, The Economist, Messrs Brooks, Buckley & Co are going to have to acknowledge this. If they’re planning on spending the rest of his term tutting that his management style is obstructing the effective implementation of his centrist agenda, it’s going to be a long four years.