January 24, 2010

"It was not a referendum on Barack Obama, who in every poll remains one of the most popular politicians in America."

In the first 2 sentences of his new column, Frank Rich stakes out the territory of his dreams. The first poll I think of is this new Gallup poll:



Now, I can see Rich's loophole: "one of the most popular politicians in America." All he needs for his statement to be true is for there to be a lot of other politicians who are more unpopular. And then, job approval isn't necessarily popularity. Presumably, Obama still has this personal popularity, which he could somehow begin to use to do things people would actually approve of.

Anyway, Rich goes on to say that Obama is in trouble and must act quickly. He'd like to see Obama "exerting such take-no-prisoners leadership to challenge those who threaten our own economic recovery" and holds up an example of JFK "threaten[ing] to sic his brother’s Justice Department on corporate records" after the chairman of U.S. Steel tried to "break a White House-brokered labor-management contract agreement and raise the price of steel (but not wages)." Rich doesn't identify anything precisely equivalent to the U.S. Steel situation that would make good theater for Obama.

Hmmm. I wrote that last sentence and carefully chose the expression "good theater" without it even crossing my mind that Rich began his career as a theater critic.

I've got to say, I really don't understand what Rich would like Obama to do and how it could help our terrible economy. Here is the text of Kennedy's press conference. Can you extrapolate from that and apply it to today? The most Rich has is:
When it comes to economic substance, small symbolic gestures (the proposed new bank “fee”) won’t cut it. Nor will ineffectual presidential sound bites railing against Wall Street bonuses beyond the federal government’s purview. There’s no chance of a second stimulus. The White House will have to jawbone banks on foreclosures, credit card racketeering and the loosening of credit to small businesses....
So... jawboning... or is Obama supposed to threaten them somehow?

35 comments:

rhhardin said...

The declaration of martial law on the mantel in the first act goes off in the third.

miller said...

I suspect they promoted Frank Rich to be an editorial page writer when they realized his theatre reviews weren't all that good.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Rich sees Obama's Cloward-Piven strategy cracking up, and exhorts him to take a harder line. The agenda of destroying the US economy is hanging by a thread, but Rich thinks it can be saved if Obama just acts more like Josip Vissarionovich Djugashvili.

SMGalbraith said...

Policies are different than the person. Americans simply aren't going to say they dislike their president. Policies? Yes. Person? No (there are exceptions of course, Nixon being the most obvious).

I believe that throughout his presidence more than half of the public liked Bush. But they abhorred his performance.

Parenthetically, this also puts a dagger in the left's narrative that the opposition to Obama is mostly racial.

The Drill SGT said...

I note that the Gallup poll is of "adults", rather than "registered voters" or "Likely Voters", each group of course would give Obama ineven worse ratings

EDH said...

Greg Mankiw posts this at his blog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Note from Inside
One of my many friends working for President Obama sends me this email, along with permission to share it with my blog readers:

Regardless of how one evaluates the wisdom of the policy [Volcker ideas about separating investment and commercial banking] (and I fully acknowledge that reasonable people can differ on this), in practice the timing of the announcement (coming after the loss of the Massachusetts Senate seat) is being interpreted as "the Administration has finally decided to cave in to the populist temptation." As a result there is a lot of uncertainty about whether Bernanke will be reappointed and whether the new policy signals that the Administration is going to dump him. Honestly, dumping Bernanke was NOT the point of this announcement.

But it seems like Wall Street is interpreting this as "Summers, Geithner, and Bernanke are on the way out because Obama has finally decided to go populist." Honestly, that is truly not right, though I can see how from the outside it would look like it.

Oddly enough, this is one of those cases where the whole thing could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The policy announcement had nothing to do with Bernanke, but now the sharks are scenting blood, inTrade is putting Bernanke's odds of confirmation much lower, and a lot of Senators are starting to waver and back off and say they won't vote to confirm him, so now maybe he can't get through. If not for the misinterpretation of the get-tough-on-banks move, though, Bernanke's standing would not have changed.

[name withheld]

PS I know it's a fool's game to try to explain moves in the stock market, but I have a friend on Wall Street who tells me that the selloff in the last couple of days is more due to uncertainty caused by the sense that Summers and Geithner are losing out to populism than to specifics of the bank plan.

The Drill SGT said...

"threaten[ing] to sic his brother’s Justice Department on corporate records" after the chairman of U.S. Steel tried to "break a White House-brokered labor-management contract agreement and raise the price of steel (but not wages)." Rich doesn't identify anything precisely equivalent to the U.S. Steel situation that would make good theater for Obama.

Trust me on this. The stock market will not go up, and small business will not start hiring because Obama increases his threat levels.

what will increase both is a sense that the long term regulatory and tax climates will improve.

I don't see that happening for several years.

t-man said...

SMG -
That's not a very sophisticated analysis.

Start with two unalterable facts:

1. The Narrative of America being inescapably wedded to racism cannot be wrong, people are just better hiding their racism and using code words.

2. Americans overwhelmingly are in favor of leftist economic and social policies.

With those facts in mind, what are the correct conclusions to reach from the Gallup data?

First, Americans are hiding their racism by giving Obama generally positive scores on personal popularity. But, second, they manifest the depth of the real racism by opposing policies, which they really would prefer, out of spite towards Obama.

It's really simple when you use the correct analytic framework.

SMGalbraith said...

The noted "right track/wrong track" poll: Tracking.

Overall: 56% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track; 37% believe we're in the right direction.

Yeah, the public thinks Mr. Obama is a good date but they're not convinced he's a good husband. Yet.

Admittedly, these numbers are always very volatile.

t-man said...

I see it as a whirlwind romance and quick marriage that ends in divorce within a year.

SMGalbraith said...

The Narrative of America being inescapably wedded to racism cannot be wrong, people are just better hiding their racism and using code words.

Yes, but the problem with that argument (and I understand you're being a devil's advocate) is that if American was still irredeemably racist why would Americans "hide" their racism?

If Americans are fundamentally no different than the Jim Crow segregationists, why the subterfuge?

Of course, for those that believe America's original sin still remains, anything Americans say or do can be interpreted as evidence of racism.

Lots of people get tenure out of such endeavors.

Moose said...

Rich is essentially saying "in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king". It's not much of a feat to be the most popular politician right now. Damning with faint praise and all that...

SBVOR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric said...

He'd like to see Obama "exerting such take-no-prisoners leadership to challenge those who threaten our own economic recovery"...

Let me scratch this liberal a bit... hey, look, a Stalinist!

SBVOR said...

Silly Gallup...

Although they clearly have a full complement of January data, their page still sez:

"The next Gallup Daily tracking update will be Dec. 11."

Does anybody at Gallup read their own publications? ;-)

Just nit picking Gallup.

shoutingthomas said...

The answer to our economic troubles is obvious: look at historical precedent.

Reagan economic policies brought us out of the last severe recession. The formula is simple: reduce taxes, reduce regulation, reduce the size of government and reduce welfare entitlements.

Green jobs, which seems to be the strategy of Obama is just crony capitalism.

We know the answer. We've been through this before. Obama can't deliver, because his constituency is unions, welfare recipients and government workers.

Big Mike said...

While Barack Obama may be personally popular, the Obama-Reid-Pelosi policies are wildly unpopular, and to the extent that Scott Brown made his election a referendum on those policies and asked the voters to "send a message to Washington," that certainly helped his election. If Obama was a good politician -- as opposed to merely being a good campaigner, then he'd listen to that message very seriously.

It didn't hurt that Martha Coakley thought Curt Schilling was a Yankees fan.

ricpic said...

Obama would have to radically lower our exposure to him and also stop changing the rules in which the private sector has to operate every five minutes to up his approval rating. He'll do niether. He's temperamentally incapable of doing either. Which doesn't mean he'll necessarily lose in 2012. When you put together the under-class, the over-class and the herd-naive that's a hard combo to beat.

cokaygne said...

When I was a kid JFK was wildly popular in my family and my neighborhood because we thought he was one of us - an Irish Catholic from MA. We didn't know beans about his policies, but, if we did, the threats to US Steel would have been just as popular. That was then; this is now.

We know more about our politicians today, and I hope we understand more about economics and liberty. Someone with JFK's family background and character might not get elected in today's climate, although we did have a close call with John Edwards because the mainstream media looked the other way.

One hopes that nowadays JFK's threat to sic his brother's DOJ (could a president put a close relative in the cabinet today?) on the steel companies because of a policy difference would be seen by most people as the mafia-like threat that it is.

There is progress.

wannie said...

Media libs have had their heads in the sand for quite awhile. Citizen dissatisfaction with the Obama administration is manifest across the country. The so-called "Massachusetts Massacre" is just the latest (and loudest) demonstration of it ... You're too late, Frank. The horse was out of the barn long before the MA special election.

David said...

Rich has a point, though he pushes it too far. Obama's personal popularity seems to be holding up pretty well, and I don't think it has much to do with white guilt, etc. Plus, although his job approval is down, it's still not terrible, just at the lower end of first year ratings for Presidents in the last 50-60 years.

I am not sure why this is, but it does not have a lot to do with his policies. The right track-wrong track surveys, and the disapproval of the health care program, make that pretty clear.

Obama still has a lot of latent personal goodwill to draw on. But it will erode if he does not get the policies right.

Plus the press has not turned on him yet. That may never happen, though if it does it will be with the savagery of a spurned lover.

David said...

Rich has a point, though he pushes it too far. Obama's personal popularity seems to be holding up pretty well, and I don't think it has much to do with white guilt, etc. Plus, although his job approval is down, it's still not terrible, just at the lower end of first year ratings for Presidents in the last 50-60 years.

I am not sure why this is, but it does not have a lot to do with his policies. The right track-wrong track surveys, and the disapproval of the health care program, make that pretty clear.

Obama still has a lot of latent personal goodwill to draw on. But it will erode if he does not get the policies right.

Plus the press has not turned on him yet. That may never happen, though if it does it will be with the savagery of a spurned lover.

kcom said...

"There’s no chance of a second stimulus."

Somebody should ask Frank Rich if there's a chance of a first stimulus.

rhhardin said...

Rush said the other day that he could create more jobs in twenty minutes than Obama could in four years, if he had the tools Obama does.

Rush didn't say how, but it would be cancel the capital gains tax and business taxes; and make a government-stays-out policy clear.

Obama, curiously, is going the other way exactly. The open question is whether it's by idiocy, which is very likely, or by design.

MikeDC said...

We must destroy the economy in order to save it!

These guys are fucking clueless, and the best I can suggest to all of you guys that have any sense is to not get comfortable. Just because they now have only 59 votes in the senate doesn't mean they can't do plenty of damage.

Big Mike said...

@rhhardin, you're pretty much right on the mark. The bottom line is that in order to overcome high unemployment you need to make it easy for firms of all sizes to hire people.

Why doesn't this president get that?

Chase said...

Frank Rich is a typical liberal: a born liar.

Liberals read Frank Rich to salve their blown minds when it comes to dealing with reality and the Democrats continued failures with,well, tools shown to fail, without fail, in the past.

He is, fankly, a stain on the truth and American society, continually attempting correlations where none exist: The record cold weather PROVES global warming! Mel Gibson's father is an idiot, so Mel Gibson is a Nazi! Iraq is a success, so Bush is responsible for Obama's economic failures!

That is why progress is behind in America on the major issues: Frank Rich is the comforter and bedtime storyteller to the liberals and Dmeocrats of America.

SMGalbraith said...

Why doesn't this president get that?

He wanted to transform the economy - or major components of it (energy, health) - at the same time he wanted to grow it.

All while it was recovering from major financial shocks.

Too much, too fast.

Of course, the Krugmans would say too little, too slow.

Thus the debate.

Chase said...

Frank Rich is also frankly a stain on the truth.

Peter V. Bella said...

If Obama threatened to sic the justice department on anyone ala RFK, one thing would happen. He and the justice department would be in big legal trouble.

RFK got away with being the second worst serial violator of the United States Constitution in modern history. FDR was the worst for putting people in camps ala Hitler.

Today, if there was a repeat of the Kennedy crime spree, heads would roll. Obama would have a real fight with SCOTUS on his hands instead of his current imaginary one.

Rich is advocating Obama pull a Nixon- go after enemies. He should have stayed on as a theater critic.

mariner said...

cokaygne:
We know more about our politicians today, and I hope we understand more about economics and liberty.

On the evidence, the American electorate knows a lot less about economics and liberty than it understood in JFK's day.

And thanks to the MSM, we know even less about Obama than we knew about JFK.

Fen said...

WH Press Secretary was making the morning talk show rounds with this swill. He wants you to believe that presidential approval ratings = policy approval ratings. Even said it with a straight face.

Yes, the Democrats really think you are this stupid.

SteveR said...

The NYT's Nobel Prize winning economist/columnist hasn't exactly been able to lead his President into the light of economic recovery, although he surely thinks he could. Rich needs to stick with a subject he knows.....um.. er.. nevermind.

Quayle said...

Oh, the talking point of the day - "look at Obama's personal popularity."

And then tomorrow another talking point.

And then another the next day.

And another.

And another.

Let's keep thinking what to say, and let's all say it together.

Hey Mr. Modern Political Operative - take all your talking points and shove them where the sun don't shine!

bagoh20 said...

A lot of people are reduced to hoping Obama is at least that proverbial broken clock. And when time eventually catches up to those frozen hands, they will foolishly think it was never broken to begin with.