Thursday, 12 March 2009

1. "Phony War."
I failed to note on this blog the similarity between our current state of denial concerning our new economic reality to the so-called Phony War, the period between the fall of Poland in 1939 and the spring of 1940 in which the German blitzkrieg rambled across Western Europe. I meant to. Kudos to David Ignatius for making the connection in his Washington Post column today; it is a brilliant analogy. The Party may be Over (it really is), but the revelers refuse to notice.

2. Is the Honeymoon Over? In response to my definitive declaration a few weeks ago that the honeymoon for President Obama was still going strong and likely to continue for quite some time, Tocqueville has been sending me mainstream media pieces that take the President to task. Admittedly, the vehemence of some of the reportage and analysis over the past week surprises me.

Nevertheless, I am loath to admit that Tocqueville might be right (which would make me wrong). On Tuesday, in response to a tough op-ed at the hands of Howard Fineman, I wrote back to him:

Are you asserting that Obama is NOT still getting much better press than he deserves? I assume you are NOT asserting that he is getting anything comparable to the last president?

With all due respect to Howard Fineman, this president continues to get the most fawning press coverage I have ever witnessed in my thirty-five years of watching national politics.

Is the honeymoon over? Not by a long shot...

And after this big bounce on Wall Street, I expect his numbers to go back up five or ten points...

But even NPR ran a slightly combative, slightly apologetic piece today debunking some of Obama's numbers on education.

Actually, I razz NPR because I love them. Remember, NPR led the way among mainstreamers in reporting the success of the "surge" in Iraq, an inordinately awkward admission that most of the established news agencies could not bring themselves to make prior to the presidential election.

Now if SNL goes on the offensive, as opposed to limiting their targets to right-wing talk show hosts and obscure members of the minority in the House, then I might be forced to admit that the glaciers are actually melting.

One other serious indicator: I have also opined that the honeymoon won't be over until the White House press corps starts shouting questions at the President in a surly manner. However, after the last ten days, I can actually envision a moment in which the press might actually take on this President.

3. I support Geithner and Bernanke. One last thing. In my Geithner piece this week, I wondered if the treasury secretary might be sacrificed at some point to propitiate an angry mob incensed over the economy and the financial bailouts.

However, let me make it clear that I do expect something of an economic upswing at some point--and I like Geithner. While I am now convinced, unfortunately, that Obama does NOT comprehend the parameters of the economic crisis that confronts him, my thin reed of hope for something less than total ruin in the banking sector has always been Ben Bernanke. My sense is that the Fed Chair is the most knowledgeable government official (and the coolest hand) in Washington right now. This is a good thing. My sense is that he is capable of facing down the mob and the demagogues, maintaining his composure, and making the right moves. My sense also is that Tim Geithner is quiet but exceedingly competent in all this.

Remember, if you fix the banks, the recession comes around. This doesn't solve our malignant structural problem, but it keeps our gooses from getting cooked in the here and now. Therefore, I am fairly bullish on the possibility of a recovery over the course of the next two years.