What a political week it was. In just the span of a few days, Americans watched as President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time; defended his $787-billion stimulus plan; and presented his massive $3.6-trillion budget. Oh, and we also witnessed the cartoon-character-like implosion of once-rising GOP star Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana.
Let's start with the fun stuff and Jindal, who gave the requisite Republican response to Obama's speech to lawmakers. In a performance that could've been mistaken for a guest spot on Sesame Street, the Governor's delivery was jarringly over-animated. He came off kooky and sounded like he was explaining the birds and the bees to a bunch of 1st graders. Sorry, but after this on-air trainwreck, the only way Jindal's gonna ever occupy the White House is if he and Dennis Kucinich stage a coup.
What Republicans are up in arms over is the unprecedented spending plan Obama's presented to lift the country out of its economic woes. Now this may come as a shock to our friends on the right, but America's in the middle of the worst financial meltdown since the Great Depression. It's a perfect-storm: consumers aren't spending, banks aren't lending, and the Fed's standard monetary policy fixes have failed. What's required is a swift and aggressive shift in the government's fiscal policy, the road on which Obama's daringly embarked. What we're dealing with here is not some run-of-the-mill recession nor, as some conservative talking heads like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would like us to believe, is it a creation of Democrats' imagination. Our economy is in crisis. Dire straights. We need to stop the hemorrhaging and begin a recovery soon or the economy will sink into an abyss so deep and not seen in 80 years.
In his radio address to the nation Saturday, Obama reminded voters of one major fact: "I didn't come here to do the same thing we've been doing or to take small steps forward. I came to provide the sweeping change that this country demanded when it went to the polls in November."
And that's precisely what the president's doing with both his stimulus bill and the budget. He's operating in full-blown Keynesian mode, using the power and resources of the federal government to stimulate the economy, increase demand for goods and services, reduce unemployment and avoid deflation. Republicans almost uniformly disagree with this strategy, but they've had the better part of the last 22 years to experiment with Reagan/Bush/Bush's supply-side/trickle-down policies. Judging from the current state of the economy, simply giving tax breaks to the rich because they're the engine that supposedly drives the economy is a misguided, unproven and self-serving strategy.
George Bush took eight years to wreak havoc on the nation's economy. Americans, especially Obama's harshest critics on the right, would be best served if he were given more than just his first month in office before the 'nattering nabobs of negativism' claim his failure. He's simply doing what he was elected to do and what he said he would do. Will it work? Who knows. To be sure, he is banking his presidency and therefore his legacy on it. But if history has taught us anything, it's that America's greatest presidents have been true visionaries. Neither Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln or FDR played it safe or by the book. In due time we'll know whether Obama's big-government solution will put him in such excellent company.
Follow Andy Ostroy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndyOstroy