Obama’s Very Short Honeymoon

What now for President-elect Obama? I congratulated him last night for on his victory and spent too much time today reading vacuous articles about what he is planning to accomplish. Let’s talk a very little bit about reality and a little more about how he might approach his impending term as president.

Paul Kedrosky who has a very good blog called Infectious Greed wrote in The Daily Beast that the future president faces a lot of hurdles. Essentially, he argues that Obama is hemmed in by events in the economy. I couldn’t agree more but check it out and draw your own conclusions.

Leaving economics and finance aside I think that the more fascinating exercise is how Obama and his team deal with the need to engage on the immediate issues. I wrote a post yesterday referencing two excellent articles on the Great Depression one of which noted that Roosevelt declined to take an active roll in fighting the economic downturn after his election. He essentially deferred any involvement until after his inauguration despite the urgings of Hoover to become immediately involved in the process.

That was a great political decision and one of a very similar nature now faces Obama. No doubt he inherits a difficult situation. Early engagement risks identification with the problem rather than the solution. It’s probably better to let Bush suffer alone what is likely to be a disastrous fourth quarter.

He has shown himself to be a shrewd politician and I have no doubt he will negotiate these shallow waters skillfully. The problem, of course, is that he can’t avoid the helm forever. In that exercise he is shackled with a liberal congress that could lead him into danger if he does not have the political will to bring them to heel. Progress on the economy will be unreasonably expected in short order by the electorate. The memories of Bush will be short and if things deteriorate badly, the Democratic Party will be pilloried. There is little margin for error.

Not since 1932 has a President assumed power with so much hanging in the balance. Obama has the chance to make history. The problem is that he could become one of histories biggest goats or one of its biggest heroes. Pay not attention to the fluff you saw spread throughout the press today. The fate of this administration is going to be known quite quickly.

Tom Lindmark

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