By getting their panties all bunched up in a demeaning imitation of the impatient cable news-cycle idiots -- reaction to reaction, never long term thinking -- Frank Rich, Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd are now part of the self-fulfilling Doom Brigade that our thoughtful, calm, smart president is battling.
Rich, Krugman and Dowd (Sunday TimesMarch 21), all sounding as if they work for a lefty version of FOX News, bemoan the fact that Obama hasn't hit the panic button. What really bothers them is that he isn't using the financial crisis to push a hard-edged, lefty economic agenda to their liking. They want Obama to get into the retribution game.
Barely eight weeks into the Obama presidency and some "friends" on the left want President Obama to share in the Republican's the-sky-is-falling panic, and amplify it exponentially. The critics on the sound bite right and left seem to forget that we ordinary voters elected Obama because of his calm, cool and collected temperament. We trust him because he is anti-panic by nature.
"Treasury has decided that what we have is nothing but a confidence problem, which it proposes to cure by creating massive moral hazard. This plan will produce big gains for banks that didn't actually need any help... And I fear that when the plan fails, as it almost surely will, the administration will have shot its bolt..."
"Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans' anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed."
"The president and his Treasury secretary have been coddling the Wall Street elite..."
The game here is that what these commentators don't say is that they too are part of the process, not neutral, let alone blameless, observers. They have deadlines to meet! Drama is in their nature. The pundits' dirty little secret (left-or-right, Times-or-FOX) is that they know that a big measure of our problem is a loss of confidence, so that when they claim the sky is falling they help make it so. Taken together the Krugman, Rich and Dowd columns are an act of self-fulfilling and self-destructive irresponsible "prophecy" of failure a la Rush Limbaugh.
Obama is battling the Doom Brigade by not reeling from crisis to crisis but rather he is coolly, calmly and deliberately rolling out a mix of long and short term programs and initiatives. President Obama is the grown up surrounded by pundit children. President Obama is refusing to play the panic-n'-react media game of crisis-as-entertainment "management."
I say this to Rich, Krugman, Dowd et al: give our new president a chance! You all live here too don't you? If our man fails do you all have some island to go to the rest of us don't know about?
You guys can't think long term because your interests are not our country's interests. You live week-to-week in columnists/deadline pretend land. We need long term solutions, not leftist (or rightist) dramatic innovation in the guise of crisis management that makes for good copy but terrible policy. So if you are disappointed that our president is turning out to be the non-ideological centrist and pragmatic and patient realist that he promised he would be, too bad for you. But please don't throw gas on the economic fire just because A) you hoped Obama would be more to the left; B) you have the "patience" of cable news junkies on crack and (C you want politics played as an entertaining blood sport that fits the news cycle of your deadlines.
And I say this to our President:
Mr. President, there is an alternative universe of cable news (and "professional" commentary) and there is the country I live in and that you are the president of. In the real world, where I play with my granddaughter, garden, write, pay bills, struggle, I -- like most Americans -- am so very grateful that you are our president. I am especially grateful because for five long years, while my youngest son served in the United States Marine Corps, his commander in chief was someone who's judgment I did not trust. It was agony to know that my son was sent to a needless war in Iraq to risk his life for a president with no long term strategy and who was given to meaningless, always political, news cycle grandstanding.
My son survived and came home to begin a new life as a husband and young father. And having you working to lead us out of the mess you inherited fills me -- this fifty-six-year-old, middle class white man and former life-long Republican -- with hope. I trust you.
Pay no attention to the dumb-ass news cycles. All you need to do is pay attention to everything that will make my son's years of service to his country worthwhile. All you need to do is pay attention to our long term economy, so that my wife and I can grow old with a modicum of dignity. All you need to do is work to make sure that when my granddaughter goes to school she is taught well and has a chance to be happy and fulfilled. And -- speaking selfishly, since I live near the ocean -- all you need to do is work to reduce global warming so that a few years from now my house isn't under water! Rebuilding our infrastructure is also far more important than the non-issue media-hype about where 162 million went to the losers at AIG. And yes we have a banking problem. We also have a strong and vibrant country to back you up. We are going to be okay.
I am more optimistic than ever, both for our country and for your presidency. The fact that you are sticking to your long term plans -- even in the midst of our way overblown short term banking crisis -- and the insane demand that you fire your financial team before they have even had the chance to do anything for us! -- is immensely encouraging.
Ignore Rich, Krugamn, Dowd et al who want dramatic statements and retribution against "evildoers" in the banking industry. You are living in my world, the real world, the world we all care about where messy compromise is the only way to get things done, rather than in the nether sphere of the cable news/punditry that is now infecting even columnists at the Times who are telling you to rip things up, primarily for what amounts to entertainment purposes. You are keeping your eye on the ball, on environmental repair, education reform, better health care, a strong national defense, fairer taxes, wrapping up the war in Iraq, and fighting more effectively in Afghanistan, and yes, reforming our banking system. Hang in there for us.
Mr. President: I -- and many Americans -- trust your judgment far more than the judgment of your critics. Defend us from emotionally satisfying short term drama that will undermine our chance of long term recovery. Stick to your plans. Stick by your team. We are proud of you.
Mr. President: You are leading people who can be patient, regardless of the pretend world of cable news, and breathless commentary. We ordinary Americans believe in your abilities and, like you, we are thinking in terms of months and years, not in the pitiful language of hourly sound bites or weekly deadlines.
You are doing just fine. Stick with us and we'll stick with you.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back (Now in Paperback)