Last week was a particularly difficult one for the commander-in-chief. During that tumultuous 7-day stretch, President Barack Obama faced questions about his much maligned suggestion of having the private insurance plans of veteran’s to pay for their service-related injuries. The week also included the ruckus over American International Group (or All Involved Guilty, if you ask me) paying $165 million in bonuses from bailout money to the very executives responsible for the financial crisis we’re in.
Then the president had to step up and defend his Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. Geithner likely knew about the bonuses and only alerted the White House just days before they were handed out. To ensure that Americans weren’t losing hope in his economic plans, Obama appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to allay their concerns, and anger, over the government’s handling so far of the crisis.
Congress wasn’t very helpful after offering a blatantly unconstitutional and reactionary bill to tax those bonuses up to 90 percent. Obama hasn’t said whether he’ll sign the bill. But if he succumbs to the “lynch mob mentality” over the bonuses and signs this legislation, it would be a huge mistake and could seriously undermine his agenda. The bigger question is: Will Americans support further government-approved stimulus packages or bailouts after how the AIG deal was handled?
Recently, I asked State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th) whether she believed the AIG debacle would hurt the president’s credibility with Congress and the public. She doesn’t think so.
“The president has acknowledged that mistakes were made in handling the bailout and he has assured the American people that their will be greater oversight in the future.”
Lightford added that most Americans see the need for federal spending to get the economy back on track and will be supportive. I don’t completely disagree with her, but the president isn’t instilling confidence in the right ways.
His appearances on The Tonight Show and 60 Minutes would be fine if his cabinet wasn’t under such intense scrutiny. And his ill-advised “Special Olympics” joke with Leno and his odd laughter in response to a 60 Minutes question about his budget didn’t help matters. I know, I know-he’s only been president for about two months and he did inherit the worst economic crisis in nearly 80 years. He does need time for his plans to work. True.
But the president needs to show more authority in presenting his plan and showing how American’s will benefit from it. He needs to show some decisiveness in rejecting efforts to stifle future stimulus efforts. And, he’ll have to stand up to members of his own party, especially those-Like Senate Banking Committee Chair Chris Dodd-who dropped the ball when writing the terms of the AIG bailout. The Connecticut senator is still trying to explain why he didn’t modify an amendment to the federal stimulus bill that would have capped the AIG bonuses.
I realize the president has a lot on his plate and I’m hopeful his latest plan to buy up toxic assets from struggling banks will be successful. But I wish he would spend a little less time explaining the plan and a little more time reassuring the public. I’m also looking next for some federal help to small businesses and infrastructure. Oh, and a little less humor would be nice too.
Personally, if I had just lost my job, my 401K, house, life savings or business, and the man who said he could help was laughing as he explained his plan, I would have doubts about his ideas too.