We have "only one President at a time," Barack Obama said in his debut press conference as President-elect. Normally, that would be a safe assumption -- but we're learning not to assume anything as the charcoal-dreary economic winter approaches. By mid-November, with the financial crisis growing worse by the day, it had become obvious that one President was no longer enough (at least not the President we had). So, in the days before Thanksgiving, Obama began to move -- if not to take charge outright, then at least to preview what things will be like when he does take over in January. He became a more public presence, taking questions from the press three days in a row. He named his economic team. He promised an enormous stimulus package that would somehow create 2.5 million new jobs, and began to maneuver the new Congress toward having the bill ready for him to sign -- in a dramatic ceremony, no doubt -- as soon as he assumes office.
That we have slightly more than one President for the moment is mostly a consequence of the extraordinary economic times. Even if George Washington were the incumbent, the markets would want to know what John Adams was planning to do after his Inauguration. And yet this final humiliation seems particularly appropriate for George W. Bush. At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks.