Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 13, 2009

WALKING AND CHEWING GUM.... Media Matters noted yesterday, "Recently, the media have highlighted claims that President Obama's 'plate' is too 'full,' suggested he has 'bit off more than he can chew,' or otherwise given credence to the accusation that the president has loaded his agenda with unrelated items when he should be focusing on the economy."

It's become one of the dominant recent criticisms of the White House. The president is expected to address a series of crises, and produce quick and tangible results. Those same voices, of course, also want to see Obama do all of this slowly and incrementally.

The president is obviously aware of these concerns, and addressed them yesterday during a speech to the Business Roundtable.

"Does the greatest economic crisis in our lifetime warrant extraordinary action to deal with the array of challenges we face? Or should we limit our efforts, and try to deal with them incrementally, or one at a time?

"Now, let me say that it was not my preference, believe it or not, to launch my administration by passing the largest economic recovery plan in the nation's history, or to face crises in the financial market and the automobile industry. It was not ideal to take office in the midst of the worst job and growth numbers in decades -- particularly since we're still in the midst of two wars. But that's the duty I signed on for.

"And although my administration did not create these problems, it's now not only my responsibility, but my extraordinary privilege, to help solve them. It's my job to address every challenge that may threaten the strength and vitality of our families, our businesses, and our entire nation -- now and in the future.... But the truth is that these problems in the financial market, as acute and urgent as they are, are only part of what threatens our economy. And we must not use the need to confront them as an excuse to keep ignoring the long-term threats to our prosperity: the cost of our health care and our oil addiction; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit.

"Now, I'm not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it, or because I'm a glutton for punishment. I'm doing so because they're fundamental to our economic growth, and ensuring that we don't have more crises like this in the future."

He added, "When we issued the budget, they said, 'Boy, these Obama people, they're really ambitious. They're taking on health care. They're taking on energy. They're taking on education. Don't they know that there's this bank crisis right now? We've got to do one thing at a time.' " Obama explained, though, that the budget is a decade-long blueprint: "We think that we've got to get the process and get in place a structure and a framework and a funding approach, and work out a lot of these details, but it's going to be implemented over time."

I'm very much inclined to agree with Eugene Robinson's take on all of this: "It didn't work to shout 'socialism,' so now they're yelling 'overload' and 'lack of focus.' Critics of the Obama administration counsel the president and his aides to spend every waking hour ... on the paralyzing financial crisis. What these critics really want, though, is to delay or derail the progressive reforms that voters elected President Obama to carry out. Advice to 'fix' the financial system before even thinking about health care, energy or education is either misguided or disingenuous. Fortunately, Obama seems to be ignoring all the chatter."

Steve Benen 10:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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"Obama seems to be ignoring all the chatter."

Playing the dozens is good for that.

Posted by: jay on March 13, 2009 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Extraordinary challenges require

extra-ordinary efforts.

We have endured "ordinary" for too long, which is why we are faced with the situation(s) at hand.

When we flew to the moon, we didn't just build a rocket, we had to

build computers, navigation systems, life-support systems, invent new alloys, etc.

To solve our economic woes we will have to address as many components as possible, not just a select few.

Obama knows this.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on March 13, 2009 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, it's much easier for someone to deal with so many things at once when they're not a spoiled ex-fratboy who think he's entitled to several months of vacation time each year.

Posted by: SteveT on March 13, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP keeps changing its tune about why Obama's approach is wrong. It reminds me of when the Bush administration kept changing its justification for invading Iraq 1) topple Saddam 2) WMD 3) build democracy in the mideast, 4) whatever.

Then, as now, the plan had no justification, but was already laid. The currently laid plan is to obstruct Obama - period - and one can see why they are flailing to find valid reasons to bolster it: there are none.

Posted by: richard greenslade on March 13, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

It is a shame the media won't just ignore Republicans altogether. The point has been amply demonstrated here and elsewhere that they have nothing useful to contribute to solving the nation's problems. And as far as their criticism of Obama 'doing too much', it's just more of the same GOP 'heads I win, tails you lose' politics.

If Obama were directing all of his focus on the economy alone, I am completely certain we'd be hearing the criticism that he was ignoring the many other pressing problems the nation is facing.

The GOP as a party consists solely and exclusively of Mayberry Machiavellis, who are interested in nothing other than playing political games and trying to score points. Maybe we can get Jon Stewart to bitch-slap the rest of the media into ignoring them and paying attention to what's important (but I won't hold my breath).

Posted by: David Bailey on March 13, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Historians have been critical of Hitler ordering his Panzers to fight three fronts at the same time in Russia. However, they never mention that the Russians defeated them by fighting three counter attacks at once. It is not the spreading of resources per se, it is the ability to use them intelligently, something the right wing doesn't want to believe about President Obama. Imagine a Multi-tasker Deluxe without a MBA degree. Go figure.

Posted by: berttheclock on March 13, 2009 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose the GOP plan of letting everyone starve to death/die of easily treatable diseases does have one benefit: then we won't have to worry about the economy.

Posted by: Personal Failure on March 13, 2009 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and WSJ via Drudge (hardest working to try and make Obama fail through media manipulation, even more than Rush albeit less candidly) is saying that polls show Obama's plans not really what the public wants, blabba blabba ...

Posted by: Neil B ♣ on March 13, 2009 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone else recall all the criticism of Jimmy Carter for focusing too much on the Iran hostage crisis?

Posted by: Jeff S. on March 13, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Or that Bill Clinton was "Obsessed" with terrorism and Osama?

Posted by: citizen_pain on March 13, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

"And although my administration did not create these problems..."

A lot of GOPpers are going to take issue with that statement, the most moderate complaining that now is not the time to be apportioning blame, and the the rank and file insisting that the economic woes of the nation are entirely the fault of the Democrats and Republicans had nothing to do with it. Everything was going along swimmingly till the Democrats took over Congress. Right?

Problem is, these will all be the same jokers who, since 2001 have been insisting that the recession that started three months into Bush's first term and six years after the Republicans took over Congress, was all the fault of Clinton and Democrats. And those who complain that Obama shouldn't take advantage of the crisis we are in today to push through his radical agenda, will mostly be the same ones who cheered wildly as Bush lied us into a useless war that has been and will continue to be bleeding the nation dry. Those same who insisted that cutting taxes was the best policy when fighting two costly wars. Those same who insisted that everything from No Child Left Behind to Faith Based Initiatives were somehow related to the War on Terror.

Hypocrisy, thy name if Republican.

Posted by: majun on March 13, 2009 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

This has been the plan for decades. Step One: Run up the deficit. Step Two: Wring hands about the deficit. Step Three: Use the deficit to justify cutting or eliminating popular government programs. Don't take my word for it. David Stockman, Saint Ronnie of Reagan's first budget director, pretty much came right out and said the deficit was being deliberately run up to provide political cover for cutting social programs that people like.

So of course the President's critics are going to say now that he should focus on the economic crisis. That's what the economic crisis was created for.

Posted by: Roddy McCorley on March 13, 2009 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Obama has only his own staff to blame for the “too tired” meme.

Would you rather have the other option, Steve?

Obama deliberately stiffed Brown, for whatever reason or reasons.

Reason No. 1, IMO, was to dodge questions from the British press at a joint presser.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on March 13, 2009 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

The irony is that Republicans don't really believe he should be doing anything to the economy in the first place. So why should they care if he's 'distracted' from it?

Posted by: Preston on March 13, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

I think that one of the reasons why the establishment media are accusing Obama of doing too much is that they are incapable of concentrating on more that one thing at a time. We have all witnessed the 24/7 coverage of the missing white girl sagas. The pundits go wild. However, when they have to cover multiple complicated issues like the economy, heath care, etc. it throws them for a loop. The pundits don’t know what to do. They don’t have the capacity to focus on more than one thing at a time. If reflects more negatively on the nay-sayers than it does on Obama.

Posted by: Sheridan on March 13, 2009 at 11:13 AM | PERMALINK

This is what the nation voted for...leadership. If you don't recognize how leadership works, of course you'd be critical. Note to Repubs: watch and learn. This is what real leadership is about.

Posted by: ML on March 13, 2009 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

Those same voices, of course, also want to see Obama do all of this slowly and incrementally.

That is such bull crap.

The GOP criticizes Obama because that's all they got. They are idiots. Ditto for the MSM.

But some of us want Obama to move swiftly to reform this country, but we also worry the economic problems will swamp him and his agenda. So we would like an initial focus on the financial system, which is the single area where I think he has been disappointing.

Maybe I'm entirely wrong, and I hope I am. Perhaps Obama can pull this off. But maybe those who support Obama's multi-front approach are wrong, the truth is we don't know yet.

I prefer to err on the side of caution.

Posted by: g. powell on March 13, 2009 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

First the Repubs say they want Obama to fail, then they wonder why he isn't following their advice?

Posted by: WatchthemBlather on March 13, 2009 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Obama's strategy is also effective in muting the Republican message machine. He's dictating the topic of conversation, and he's changing that topic several times a week. It's hard for your think tanks to come up with effective counter messaging if they only have a few days to assemble focus groups, poll different segments of society, etc. It also thwarts their preferred tactic of harping on one message over and extended period of time. It's a blitzkrieg of policy that is overwhelming the entrenched Republicans.

Posted by: JWK on March 13, 2009 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

Obama is 15 years younger, 15 times smarter, and 15 times more dedicated to solving the problems than Bush was.

Posted by: Dale on March 13, 2009 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK

We also know that the concern trolls would happily applaud Barack Obama if he decided to start focusing on "reforming" Social Security - which they tell us will only be solvent for the next 40 years.

Posted by: Jinchi on March 13, 2009 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP needs patience.

Generally, the time to scream "bit off more than he can chew" is when a person CHOKES.

Appointments to his cabinet are the nearest thing to failure I've seen.

Obama's still chewing. It's a bit early to see if it was too much. If the chance comes up where it might make sense to trot out this line... everyone will have heard it before and all hope of "punch" to the message is badly defused.

These people do NOT play chess.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on March 13, 2009 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

The GOP's stance shouldn't be surprising. It right in line with Sarah Palin's thinking, what caused the problem isn't important, we just need to fix it. Yikes. You can keep smoking, we just need to fix the lung cancer.

Posted by: kswan on March 13, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

that should read it's right in line.

Posted by: kswan on March 13, 2009 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

" Black Man Given Worst Job in America"

Posted by: The Onion on March 13, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

related fake news


Some of the News
That may be True


Wednesday March 11 - Sub-Rosa's senior investigative reporter, Ronald Davit, has obtained a discarded duplicate copy of the tape recording of part of President Obama's day in the oval office.
It appears that there are some omitted or deleted sections but we have pieced together these excerpts:

Hello, Warren, this is the President. How are things in Omaha?

Good. I want to thank you again for your help and advice during the campaign and the advice you have continued to offer. But I have to take issue with your view that I am taking on too many issues at one time and that I have to focus on the economy. Let me assure you .... oh, excuse me for a minute.

I'm back. That was Governor Sebelius and her chief of staff. They wanted clarification of one point in my health plan.

Tim Geitner and I are meeting later this afternoon to .... please hold, call coming in.

That was the Vice President, calling from Brussels. Joe needed approval of some draft language in NATO's letter to Putin. Tim and I are going to be discussing .....

(long silence)

Secretary Gates and Holbrook arrived early for their appointment. We had to make final decisions on some points in the new strategic plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Tim and I feel that some clarification .... just a minute....

Thanks for holding. That was Emanuel. He needed to know which members of Congress will require strong persuasion to support a lower tax benefit for some itemized deductions in order to help fund our health plan. We have hopes .....sorry ...

That was just a draft of my speech tomorrow on our education overhaul.

As I said , I am focusing like a laser on the banking and jobs crisis. In fact .... Oh, Michelle. Yes, I will be available soon to help the kids with their homework. ....

And the Romanian delegation is here now?

Well, Warren, I know that you're very busy running Berkshire Hathaway so I won't keep you any longer. Thanks again for your help.

homer www.altara.blogspot.com

Posted by: altara on March 13, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

It's like the scene in "Amadeus" where Mozart's patron complains that there are "too many" notes in his works. WTF?

Posted by: chachabowl on March 14, 2009 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK



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