Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Charisma Gap

This week's faces of the Republican Party in the media are Dick Cheney, Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. Only Gingrich has any chance of running for the 2012 GOP nomination, a prospect almost as delightful to Democrats as Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin would be. Meanwhile there is a question as to whether Obama is becoming overexposed, in the media sense of being in our faces too much. This can happen and he needs to be sensitive to the possibility, but so far I think he is deliberately being the Anti-Bush: Bush, through a combination of natural aloofness, natural inarticulateness, and a philosophy that the president ought not have to explain himself too much, ended up seeming out-of-touch. Obama is behaving as much like Theodore as like the other Roosevelt: the presidency is a "bully pulpit" and we live in times when the public needs to be continuously updated and educated on what's happening.

I think Obama is also trying to humanize (as in cut down to size) the presidency. He is essentially a technocrat, a fact obscured by his recent historical political successes. If he keeps talking publicly as much as he has been so far, the public (and the media) will tune out a bit, and that might not be a bad thing for the institution. Some unglamorous, nonsuperstar officials are trying to make the trains run on time and keep the lights on, and if you're interested in that sort of thing you can tune in, otherwise you can seek entertainment elsewhere.

It was ironic today when the Czech president denounced the stimulus spending strategy of the US: the Eastern European politician thinks that the Americans are too socialist! When the crisis is economic it sorts out the wheat from the chaff, it's real work to figure out any of this stuff enough to start to get a handle on it. For example Paul Krugman is all for stimulus spending, in fact he thinks that so far the government has not spent nearly enough, yet he is equally adamant that the banking policy of buying up bad assets is a terrible mistake. I confess that this is too deep for me at the moment, but I'm working on it!

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