Thursday, March 19, 2009

The media wants it right now

President Obama has been in office for about two months. Yet for the past two weeks, much of the media has been suggesting that the Obama presidency is a failure because he didn't come into office, wave his wand, and cure all the problems that took Bush and the Republicans eight long years to build. The media wants everything fixed now. They want the economy to be fixed now. So, in trying to make news instead of just reporting news, they are saying things like: he is doing too much at once, he is not doing enough, he’s moving too fast, he’s moving too slowly, his staff is making too many errors, and on and on and on.

No matter what your personal opinion is of Obama, you have to admire his courage. He is doing what he thinks is right for this country, resetting its priorities for years to come, even if it means he only serves one term as president. He has said many times that if his policies do not work, he realizes that he will be voted out in 2012. Yet he moves ahead with what he sincerely believes is right for the country instead of what would be politically safe for him. It is rare that a politician would do this. I have heard him say more than once that he would rather be a good president for only four years than to be a politically-correct, mediocre president for eight years.

What the Washington political circles and the media do not understand is that what matters most to them is not the same thing as what matters most to average Americans. When it comes to judging Obama, the political and media groups are more interested in who seems to be winning or losing on a day-to-day or even a moment-by-moment basis. The pundits on Fox News, CNN, and other news programs are increasingly finding fault with Obama, although the public still likes him and believes in his policies. The average American takes a broader look at the man, focusing on whether he is really trying to make their lives better.

Obama seems well aware that even if the pundits are quickly growing disillusioned with him, the public is still taking a longer view. Last week he reminded the media that "there are no shortcuts to long-term economic growth, and we can't just keep on doing the same things we were doing before and somehow expect that all of our problems will be solved. We've been in office all of seven weeks so far. This is a crisis that was eight years in the making, maybe longer in certain aspects of it," he said. "…it’s going to take some time, and the truth of the matter is the American people, I think, understand that it's going to take some time. Keep in mind it's only been two weeks since I gave a joint session speech to Congress, the day after which everybody said, 'Boy, that was really clear.' ...The reviews were pretty good....”

Obama has signaled many times that he has no intention of backing off. He framed his administration's priorities as an urgent matter of solving problems that have been too-long delayed. Obama said his ambitious goals in such areas as education, health care, and energy policy are essential to laying the foundations for long-term growth. He said, "I think that extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Yes, they require some uncomfortable votes. If it was easy, I'm assuming it would have been done 20 years ago or 30 years ago. It's not easy [politically], but it's the right thing to do. ....The days of growing the economy through an overheated housing market or through people running up exorbitant credit cards bills are over. We've got to put our growth model on a different footing.”

The media’s impatience is not the only problem. There is the problem of Republican lock-step ‘just say no’ to everything, with Cantor or Boehner, often surrounded by a group of Republicans, making statements every time they think they have found something with which to make the president look bad. They are trying to rebuild their own party by tearing him down. They have not publicly said they want him to fail, but they seem to be doing all they can to make him fail. President Obama has challenged these Republican critics to do more than just say no:

"I think what will be interesting is the degree to which my Republican colleagues start putting forward an affirmative agenda that's not based on ideology but on the very real struggles and pain that people are feeling right now around the country and how do we get this economy back on its feet. …Opposition is always easy. Saying no to something is easy. Saying yes to something and figuring out how to solve problems and governing, that's hard. On the budget debate, for example, you've got people who say, 'We want to bring down the long-term deficit, but we don't want to cut certain programs that are important. Oh, and by the way we don't want to raise taxes...well, show me how you're going to do it."

Then there is the growing concern by some moderate Democrats about the President’s agenda for comprehensive health care reform, a major push toward renewable energy, and an overhaul of tax policy being done at the same time he is dealing with the biggest economic crisis in a generation. They are so afraid that Obama could fail from “trying to do too much at once” and possibly causing them to lose their seats in the next election that they have become less concerned with policy changes that really would raise all boats. These Democrats are cowards.

Obama has acknowledged people’s concerns about his plans to rescue the nation's economy. "I think the one area where there's still significant uncertainty has to do with the banks, and that's obviously a particular concern to Wall Street," he said. "The challenge for us there is ... we're in the process of conducting the stress tests for the banks, to get a better sense of where their capital positions are and how strong they are. And we don't want to prejudge those tests or make a lot of statements that cause a lot of nervousness around banks that are already having difficulty."

In other words, this will take some time. Be patient.

“Whether we're talking about Republicans or my fellow Democrats, my argument is going to be that these are the right priorities for America, these are the right priorities for long-term economic growth,” Obama said.

Kevin Diaz writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune regarding Obama’s latest press briefing: "Speaking slowly and deliberately, like the college professor he was, Obama made clear that his administration is in its infancy and that he still has the public on his side.... For early signs of hope, Obama pointed to his new housing plan to provide relief to homeowners facing foreclosure. 'You're already starting to see an uptick in refinancing that is providing families with relief,' he said. 'And in certain pockets of the country, you're starting to see housing prices stabilize after a long drop.

Washington is so full of people who believe that governing is a win-lose proposition that they seem unable to do what is right for this country. Obama said he had expected battles in Congress over his budget, but rebutted GOP assertions that the ambitious initiative represented a drastic lurch to the left. “For them to suggest that this was some radical assault on the rich makes no sense whatsoever,' Obama said, noting that a significant portion of the budget's tax increases - rescinding former President George W. Bush's tax cuts for more affluent taxpayers - had already been anticipated in Bush administration budgets." These Republicans are hypocrites. They were actually planning to do the same thing because it is fiscally necessary.

Most of us in the heartland are willing to wait for long term results – unlike the pundits who want all the problems solved right now or else they will declare Obama’s presidency a failure. They obviously feel a need to make news - as if there isn’t enough news already out there.