When Peter Pan revived Tinker Bell by declaring, "I do believe in fairies," few would have predicted that the President of the United States would attempt the same principle in an effort to revive a moribund economy. Yet, that was President Obama's strategy in his first speech to a joint session of Congress last week. He called upon Americans to believe passionately in his programs, and if they did, he assured us, "We will rebuild, we will recover," and the U.S. "will emerge stronger than before."
In my younger, less enlightened days before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, AIG, GM, and Countrywide, I would have considered the speech rather naïve. Yet, now I know better. Apparently, the immense financial wizardry displayed by all those brilliant minds at those major conglomerates and on Wall Street was no more substantial than the smoke and mirrors of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. Today, after stripping away all the economic analyses and political posturing, hope really does seem to be the only thing that can float the economy again.
For the past six months, stocks on Wall Street have bounced up and down apparently under nothing more potent than hope and despair. They rise one day on the latest positive government report and plunge the next day on any negative company news. The Dow fell 250 points recently following a stray remark by a legislator concerning the possibility of nationalizing banks. The following day stocks edged back up again after Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner insisted that they had no such intentions. The previous week, rumors that one of the Jonas Brothers had violated the terms of his promise ring dragged down the Dow some 200 points; the next day, official confirmation that Angelina Jolie was pregnant with another set of twins sent it back up again.
Republicans' Broken Record
The Republicans, meanwhile, continue to chase their own tails, whip themselves into a frenzy, and scare away the little children in a desparate effort to splash a little mud on President Obama's still-shiny suit of popularity. They say insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again - and expecting a different result each time. It seems, at the moment, that mass insanity is rampant within Republican circles. Last year, a stubborn insistence on running a viciously negative presidential, "gotcha" type of campaign cost them the White House. Now, marginalized in the House and Senate, they stubbornly persist on running a viciously negative, "gotcha" type of opposition against Obama in the hopes of getting the American public to lose confidence in him.
The results? The latest opinion polls find that Obama's popularity is as strong as ever. Confidence that the economy is "headed in the right direction" has jumped 15 points to 41% in the past month. Two-thirds of Americans "feel hopeful" that Obama is doing the right thing. The number of Americans that trust Democrats to get them out of the recession has doubled. Half of those responding believe that politics, not principle, motivates Republican opposition to Obama's plans.
So have the latest polls finally driven the message home to Republicans? Apparently not. They continue to support - and abjectly bow to - mob-inciting conservative talk show entertainer Rush Limbaugh, who proudly stands behind his very public and fervent hope that President Obama fail. It's the same kind of piggish, clueless vindictiveness of a passenger on a storm-tossed boat in the middle of an angry sea - who hates the captain so much he hopes he's too incompetent to keep the boat from sinking. Republicans apparent prefer to go down with the ship to prove their point than make safe harbor and be proven wrong about the competency of the captain.
Even Republican pollster Whit Ayres hasn't gotten the message. Discussing what needs to happen to get Republicans out of the ditch they've dug themselves into, he remarked that their last, best hope is that Obama "overreaches" - another word for fails.
Considering the dire sense of hopelessless and uncertainty on Wall Street, among consumers, and in global markets, President Obama imploring the American people to believe in happy endings was not so farfetched a request, after all. Republicans, unfortunately, continue to be the sourpusses in the crowd who refuse to believe in fairies.