Two of the basic concerns with Obama for me have been his unwillingness to commit to reversing Bush's "unitary president" excuse for assuming monachic powers, and the fact that "the structure of the movement Obama built for himself" gives him far more power than most presidents. It has suggested a level of comfort with autocracy that is chilling in an American president. But today Barney Frank is complaining that Obama isn't hands-on enough and that he ought to take a leadership role in solving the economic crisis we're facing.
Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama's refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin.
"He's going to have to be more assertive than he's been," House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday.
Frank, who has been dealing with both the bailout of the financial industry and a proposed rescue of Detroit automakers, said Obama needs play a more significant role on economic issues.
"At a time of great crisis with mortgage foreclosures and autos, he says we only have one president at a time," Frank said. "I'm afraid that overstates the number of presidents we have. He's got to remedy that situation."
He's right, of course. We haven't had a president in eight years. We've had a quasi-dictator and wanna-be emperor who cared nothing for anyone not in what he considered his "class", but no president. He's also right that we need one.
But Obama is following the usual American tradition: with the months-long gap between election and inauguration, in order to avoid confusion and keep the lines of command clear presidents-elect do not make policy for the lame duck no matter how much they want to or the people want them to.
Barney's sense of impending doom is understandable but overstated. There will be little Obama can do in only two months and he has much more important work setting up his administration and the parameters within which it will function. The sad fact is that Bush has so completely undermined our once strong economy that it will be years before we see any improvement no matter whether BO is active now or not. Truth to tell, "not" may be a better bet for us.
There has been an unnecessary "rush to judgment" about this crisis in which panic has fueled a $$$Trillion$$$ (so far) give-away to any "institution" that claimed its collapse could start a worldwide depression. Predictably (we predicted it here, both of us, long ago, and that was before one of us became an economist so it's not like it was all that hard to see), the bail-outs did not work because instead of using the money as it was intended to be used - to loosen the credit market - the bankers and corporate execs put the money in their own pockets. Had we insisted on taking a little more time to think the bail-outs through, it's at least possible that they never would have happened.
That $$$Trillion$$$ is long gone but there is another $$$Trillion$$$ or two looming on the horizon and it will far better serve Obama - and more importantly, us - if he does not allow himself to be stampeded into making more stupid deals favoring corporate greed at our expense. Slowing down the current hysteria is exactly what we need to be doing, and if Obama's refusal to get caught up in it is any part of his reasoning, it shows the maturity of judgment and leadership that many of us were worried he lacked.
Even if it's not part of his reasoning, his refusal to break the change-of-power tradition lends some credence to those who claimed that however arrogant he is personally, he will respect the boundaries and not grab power just because he can. And that is more reassuring than many of his choices have been so far.
I said that I would give BO credit when he deserved it, and I think he deserves it on this issue. He's right and, um, Barney? Calm down, man. The crisis ain't goin anywhere and your haste has done enough damage as it is. Back off.