Obama On Meet The Press

Barack Obama appears to be coming to grips with the realities he will inherit in late January. In an appearance on Meet the Press he warned of tough times to come and appeared to back off two of the bigger themes of his campaign.

The President-elect as much as confirmed that he is not inclined to repeal the Bush tax cuts and that his often stated intention to bring the troops home from Iraq within 16 months. Much of this had been telegraphed by his staff so this merely ranks as confirmation.

On the subject of fiscal stimulus, he seemed to be preparing for more than a little tussle with Congress as he indicated he wasn’t inclined to see spending as usual.

He told Brokaw that decisions based on where to focus infrastructure improvements would be based on merit, and “not in the old, traditional politics-first way.”

In an unambiguous brush-back to his former colleagues Obama said, “You know, the days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy, those days are over.” 

I suspect that didn’t go unnoticed on the Hill. Congress has a long history of putting or at least trying to put new administrations in their place. Given the extraordinary circumstances that will surround the change it will be interesting to see how far they go in trying to exert their will.

He also had some tough talk directed towards the auto industry.

“They’re going to have to restructure, and all their stakeholders are going to have to restructure—labor, management, shareholders, creditors—everybody is going to recognize that they have—they do not have a sustainable business model right now,” Obama said. “And if they expect taxpayers to help in that adjustment process, then they can’t keep on putting off the kinds of changes that they frankly should have made 20 or 30 years ago. If they want to survive, then they better start building a fuel-efficient car. And if they want to survive, they’ve got to recognize that the auto market is not going to be as large as some of their rosy scenarios that they put forward over the last several years.” 

That’s a welcome and refreshing approach. I hope it survives the rigors that the Democratic debt to the unions is likely to impose.

All in all, the words were moderate and reasonable. Whether they fly with a left of center Congress and a Democratic Party that’s ready for major changes remains to be seen.



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