The reason I don't watch MSNBC was confirmed this weekend. No less than three times did I flip onto the station for a brief minute when I noticed that they were analyzing, again, some poll that put Obama's popularity at 69%, which according to the graphic made him the most popular president in recent history. The answer for his defenders to any number of policy criticisms is to point to his popularity and to use that as proof that he is right and his opponents are out of touch.
The president continues to be popular for two reasons primarily, his own personal popularity and because he had a flurry of activity in the first hundred days. He has the perception of someone in charge and engaged. That's all good and well, however, at some point, we are going to start judging what he has done, not merely judging that he's done something.
By spending such an obscene amount of money, he has also ramped up the expectations. Does anyone really believe the public will accept an unemployment rate of near 10% in November of 2010 given that our deficit will be over one trillion dollars? Look at what's happening and it is nearly impossible to imagine that we will be anywhere but there come next November. We have been losing north of 500,000 jobs the last three months. It's likely that we will lose that many in April (when the numbers come out on Friday). In fact, it's likely those will be the numbers for several more months. Even when the economy stops losing jobs at this pace, it will still continue to lose jobs for many more months.
Remember, jobs are a "lagging indicator". That means they are the last thing to go. As such, even if the economy began to recover by the end of the year, it would likely be the end of next year before we started creating new jobs. So, even a best case scenario means we are still near ten percent unemployment by the end of next year. Even during the much more mild 2001-2002 recession, we didn't gain new jobs until July of 2003. The Democrats tried to run on the "jobless recovery" but national security was the order of the day in November of 2002. That won't be the case in November of 2010. This scenario assumes that everything Obama will have done will actually work. What if it doesn't work? What if his opponents are right? What if massive government borrowing and spending really isn't stimulative? What if our economy will only disintegrate under the weight of trillions of dollars in new debt? Then, come November of 2010, we will be in the middle of an economic disaster, and everyone but the greatest ideologue will blame the president for creating that disaster.
By so actively taking action, Obama is also more quickly taking ownership. It just won't be credible for Obama to argue it's all Bush's fault come November of 2010 given the stimulus, TARP, the mortgage bailout, the auto bailout, and his massive budget.
Even his supporters struggle to justify almost everything he has done. Does anyone really believe that the answer to our economic crisis is educational reform, green economy, and health care reform? Both TARP II and the stimulus are already proving to be filled with waste and abuse. It's true that this is something you won't hear in the media, but does anyone really think that a trillion and a half dollar boondoggle has any chance of stimulating the economy?
Then, there is Geithner's plan to remove the so called toxic assets. This is nothing more than a boondoggle for buyers and sellers of these assets and that's at the expense of the tax payers. Again, no one is doing any serious reporting of this, but does anyone believe that such a boondoggle will do anything substantive? Furthermore, the banks still have a looming credit card and commercial loan crisis. Nothing has been done to address either, and if they materialize, that means that banks would fall regardless of all the steps now taken. In other words, President Obama will have authorized nearly two trillion dollars in new spending to prop up banks only to see them fall anyway.
Worst all for Obama is that he has done this entirely in a partisan manner. Come November of 2010, he won't have any Republican cover for the failing economy.
Then, there is foreign policy. His defenders defend his endless apologies and reaching out to our enemies by proclaiming that he is building a base for a new geopolitical vision. In other words, he hasn't gotten anything of substance, but soon, he will. Well, come November of 2010, he'll have to get something of substance. He got no troops in Afghanistan. The next test is to see if any substantial number of prisoners will be taken from GITMO by our allies. Then, there's Iran. What if Iran is still moving forward with a nuclear weapon despite his outreach? What if Cuba is still maintaining political prisoners despite his outreach? What if Venezuela is still a tyrannical regime despite his outreach?What Imagine if Israel winds up bombing their nuclear facilities and a regional war breaks out. What would that do to his image of making over the world? Pakistan is about to fall apart. Afghanistan is falling apart and even Iraq is getting worse. At some point, Obama will need to show something tangible for all of these radical maneuvers. If in fact hapless Europeans are still hapless and tyrants are still tyrants, then Obama will look like a dangerous and naive president that sold out his country and made friends with evil enemies without seeing anything of substance accomplished.
Defenders of the president, and all Americans, had better hope that ending waterboard and other enhanced interrogations really won't hurt our efforts to get information. Because if they are wrong, we'll get hit. If we're hit, not only will thousands of Americans be dead, but so will Obama's presidency.
Please check out my new books, "Prosecutors Gone Wild: The Inside Story of the Trial of Chuck Panici, John Gliottoni, and Louise Marshall" and also, "The Definitive Dossier of PTSD in Whistleblowers"