James Forsyth

Time to focus, Mr President

Time to focus, Mr President
Text settings
Comments

No one could accuse either William Galston or David Brooks of being shrill or wanting the president to fail. But both are worried that Obama is heading for disaster because he is trying to do too much. They argue that he needs to put the rest of his agenda on hold until the financial crisis has been resolved.

Galston warns that unless Obama focuses on solving the financial crisis, he risks becoming another Carter.

“The key analogy between today and 1933 is the centrality of the financial crisis, which makes it hard to understand why the administration has not yet moved as decisively to fix it as FDR did on the first day of his presidency. This issue could not have come as a surprise to Obama and his chief financial advisors. Their failure thus far to restore financial confidence raises two equally depressing possibilities: Either they do not know what to do, or they do not believe they can muster the political support to do what they know needs to be done.

It is time for President Obama to focus his considerable leadership and communication skills on the financial crisis--to speak candidly with the people about the magnitude of the problem, to embrace a solution commensurate with the problem, and to do whatever it takes to persuade Congress and the people to accept it. If he does not, he could end up where another highly intelligent, self-disciplined, and upright president did three decades ago.”

Brooks is no less pessimistic:

“As for what policies I’d drop from the to-do list because of the crisis, at this point I’d have to say all of them. For years, I’ve been reading alarmed commentators like Martin Wolf of The Financial Times and thinking them a bit on the outer edge of pessimistic thought. Now I am not so sure. Now I think this economic crisis could be like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Big-name economists are talking seriously about another depression.

In that context, I don’t think we can do anything but fixate on this. That is, I think the president should spend 50 percent of his time on the banking crisis, 25 percent of his time on getting our allies to coordinate with a global stimulus package and 25 percent of his time beginning work on a second round of stimulus. He’s taking his eye off the ball if he spends hours every day working on health care, education and energy. Worse, he adds uncertainty into the market.

If by summer the crisis has passed, then he should go back to the long-term stuff. But the world is too uncertain just now. If the economy collapses, history will judge him very harshly for having a budget process that is on an entirely separate track from his crisis-response process.”

The first thing Obama should do is send a full list of Treasury nominees to the Senate for confirmation. It’s a scandal that Secretary Geithner is the only confirmed official in the department.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Comments
Topics in this articleSociety