Thursday, March 19, 2009

Testing Obama

The first 100 days of a presidency, when the new president still enjoys the support and hopes of the public, is a time to get things done, and Obama is doing that. It is also a time for severe testing from his antagonists: will he buckle under pressure? I am glad to say that our man shows no sign of doing that. He is severely and dangerously hampered by the economic crisis, but my sense is that the public is clear enough on the fact that this is a crisis created by funny-money Republicans and their corporate clients. Not that Obama should leave that to chance, and he isn't, repeatedly referring to the fact that he "inherited" the crisis. He also keeps saying, "I'm the President now and I accept responsibility," which among other things is a graceful way of saying "I'm in charge here and you're not." MSNBC stuck with his town meeting in California last night and I thought he was masterly. He knows that his function is essentially political and that he needs to stay in permanent campaign mode, and he's doing that, and he's great at it. Good for him.

He is being criticized for discussing the Final Four, and for going on Jay Leno tonight, but he understands that he needs to communicate with the public and maintain a relationship with the public. He will reach a huge audience on Late Night (not including me - way past my bedtime). That is not "neglecting" the economic crisis, it's functioning as the president. As to that, I'm as disgusted as everyone else by the AIG bonuses, but it has become a distraction. $160 million is big money but it's nothing compared to the money that the government is using for the bailouts, the stimulus package etc (and I am supporting the government at this point). The Republicans have double-downed on that: if he fails they hope to win big, but the flip side is that if he succeeds they definitely lose big. And aren't they the ones arguing that the economy will turn itself around in a year or two? In which case credit will go to...Obama.

On the sports thing, remember how Hillary had a Yankees/Mets problem? She couldn't have it both ways, and as a carpetbagger, she couldn't claim lifelong allegiance (that's how the local politicians finesse it). Sarah Palin got outed by the media for making the same speech about the local sports team in every city she visited. True fans have feelers for that. I always wondered why Bush, one of whose sole actual interests was baseball, didn't discuss it more. Mr. Regular Guy probably figured that the best way to stay out of trouble was just to say nothing, and he was aloof enough in general that it fit. Obama is a real person (politicians: are you listening?). He knows that sports is polarizing but he also knows that it's all in fun. It's a way for people to talk to each other (half of the men in any bar wouldn't be able to converse at all if they couldn't get into something about sports). He's not gaming us. He's being himself. He's into basketball - so sue him!

Which brings me to my last thought for now: out of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush or Barack Obama, which would you least like to sit down and have a beer with? I know not everyone will agree with me, but Bush is a white-knuckle drunk, tight-lipped and with a chip on his shoulder, hypervigilant about "authenticity," always the sure sign of an inauthentic man. Meanwhile I'd love to hang out with either Bill or Barack, relaxed, smart as whips, enjoying themselves, generous-hearted and articulate.

1 comment:

Savlove said...

Yes, O's job is to restore confidence - in the dollar & in ourselves, which is a political mood-driven kind of performance. Bill would dominate the conversation, but W lost me as a drinking buddy when I heard that while at Yale he stopped listening to the Beatles because Sgt. Pepper was such a weird departure for them.