A lot of people refuse to believe it or even don’t want to hear it because it’s become our general nature and mood to be skeptical and cranky, or they are such partisans they’d rather see the country fail than President Obama succeed, but there appears to be some good news.
We’re a long way from being out of the economic woods, and maybe we will muck around in a boggy forest for months or even years to come. But the Dow is flirting with 10000, Friday’s jobs report was the best since last fall, and it appears that the recession is over and a depression has been averted.
It’s way too early to know if we’ve really pulled out of the economic death spiral, but even some ardent critics and pessimists are showing some glow.
We’ve become so accustomed as a political culture to looking at, and creating, crises ahead, that we’ve become incapable of acknowledging or appreciating crises averted.
Our memories are so short. But remember when experts were predicting a Dow of 4000? Remember that nauseous feeling you had as you watched your IRA and mutual funds collapse overnight? Remember thinking that your life as you knew it might be over? Really over. I’m not a doom-and-gloom guy generally, and I’m no economic expert, but I remember thinking we were damn close to an absolute meltdown, the kind of chaos where people disappear into basements with canned goods and guns, and a world populated by mad scavengers, with every man, woman, and child for themselves.
Given this latest news, shouldn’t we be giving our presidents—yes plural, Obama and Bush and their economic teams (putting aside debate about the causes of the crisis, Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made some of the early and toughest policy decisions)—some credit for saving our asses from oblivion?
As she so often does, Peggy Noonan nailed it when she wrote, channeling Clare Boothe Luce, that great and successful presidents’ accomplishments can be framed in one sentence: “leadership [that] can be so well summed up in a single sentence that you don’t have to hear his name to know who’s being talked about. ‘He preserved the union and freed the slaves,’ or ‘He lifted us out of the Great Depression and helped to end a World War.’ You didn’t have to be told ‘Lincoln’ or ‘FDR’.’”
Noonan then proceeds to suggest that Obama’s problem is that he is replacing “his sentence with 10 paragraphs.” That for all his gifts, Obama may sink his own administrative ship by simply trying to steer his way through too many icebergs. She suggests that Obama’s one sentence should be: "He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror."
It’s way too early to know if we’ve really pulled out of the economic death spiral, and it’s not surprising that the Obama administration would be trumpeting the good news Friday, but even some ardent critics and pessimists are showing some glow. This, as reported in The New York Times by David Leonhardt: “The news has been good enough that the Obama administration spent Friday trumpeting its record. More telling, however, is the fact that even Nouriel Roubini, the prophetically pessimistic economist who saw the crisis coming (and doesn’t think the recession has yet ended), is now praising policymakers. He recently urged that Mr. Bernanke be reappointed as Federal Reserve chairman, saying he helped avert a ‘near depression that seemed highly likely after the financial collapse last fall’.”
And it’s absurdly premature to be suggesting that Obama “has kept us strong and secure in the age of terror,” but on this front too there are some encouraging signs. Obama is listening to the generals on the ground and not the liberal sirens from the left, and reinforcing our commitment and troops in Afghanistan—ground zero for global terror. And it was just reported that an American drone may have killed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan’s Taliban insurgency suspected of plotting the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and suicide bombings, including the Marriott Hotel massacre in Islamabad.
The world has become such a dangerous place it may be impossible to “keep us strong and secure in the age of terror.” And perhaps Obama’s short-term bailout prescriptions to avert an economic crisis only create longer-term problems that plunge us, ultimately, more deeply into economic chaos.
But, being the optimist I am, I am encouraged as I read these two headlines from The New York Times front page: “Job Losses Slow, Signaling Momentum for Recovery” and, “Taliban Leader in Pakistan is Reportedly Killed.”
And maybe it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen to Obama politically if the rest of his ambitious political agenda and 10 paragraphs were to stall, leaving him with just one clear sentence: “He brought America back from economic collapse and kept us strong and secure in the age of terror.”
Pretty good re-election theme.
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.