Daily Archives: March 23, 2009

Obama and Mixed Messages

Well, maybe this week we’ll learn if there really is any hope. Nah. Not for my NCAA pool. My brackets over the weekend folded like tents in a hurricane. But we’ll see if Obama and team can get back on message. Remember the — Yes, we can — that had such a nice ring to it a while back?

Last week, in the midst of the AIG shitstorm, administration officials were handing out advice about upholding legal contracts one day and pitchforks the next. Wow. Talk about mixed messages. And by the end of the week, things had gotten so nasty — and confusing — that even the Three Musketeers of the liberal left — Rich, Dowd and Friedman — took a poke at the Prez and his team in the Sunday NYT. To quote the philosopher Gomer Pyle, “Shazam.”

Obama guys and gals — let’s take a deep cleansing breath and see if we can’t come up with a  consistent message this week that will get us back on track. In addition to the economy, there are other big fish in the skillet, including health care, education, a couple of nearly forgotten wars and so on. And the American public — for the most part — wants you to succeed.

So we need leadership — and consistent messages and policies. In the long run that’s how we’ll regain trust and confidence. Last week we were following the Yogi Berra dictum: “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

A couple of potential forks in the road this week.

Treasury head Tim Geithner is scheduled to provide reporters this morning before Wall Street opens with specifics about the government purchasing as much as $1 trillion (wow, a billion here, a billion there, it adds up) in “toxic assets from financial institutions.” This went over like a fart in church when first discussed a few weeks ago. If people on Wall Street and elsewhere are holding there noses later this morning, look out below.

Then the White House — and Congress — are still going to have to resolve the executive compensaton and bonus issue involving AIG and others. Again, the Prez and the administration are going to have to step up, stand tall and give some clear direction and straight talk. Little of that yesterday on the Sunday scrum with the TV Talking Heads. From Politico.com:

The Obama administration appears to be dialing back its support for the bonus tax legislation generally, and particularly the bill passed by the House last week.

After the House passed the bill, the White House issued a statement from President Barack Obama saying “I look forward to receiving a final product that will serve as a strong signal to the executives who run these firms that such compensation will not be tolerated.”

But on Sunday, a top administration economist was much less enthusiastic, calling the bill “dangerous.”

“The president would be concerned that this bill may have some problems in going too far – the House bill – may go too far in terms of some legal issues, constitutional validity, using the tax code to surgically punish a small group of people,” Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s chief economic adviser, told George Stephanopoulos, host of on ABC News’ “This Week.”

Bernstein continued “That may be a dangerous way to go. That said, let’s see what comes out of the Senate. He has not said he won’t sign this bill. Let’s see what comes out of the Senate. Let’s see what gets to his desk.”

Good grief. “Let’s see what gets to his desk.”

What happened to — “Yes, we can”?