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Inside the Beltway, the Honeymoon is History

By Dan Froomkin
12:37 PM ET, 03/12/2009

Well, it's official.

David von Drehle and Michael Scherer write for Time: "Barack Obama's honeymoon in the corridors of power has come to an abrupt end — even as opinion polls show that the public remains by his side. To most grownups, seven weeks is an eyeblink (in baseball it's called spring training), but along the Acela line it is much ... too ... long to wait for Obama to fix the economy. And so the doomsday chorus began: He's trying to do too much. He's doing too little. His bank bailout is too complicated. His health-care plan is hollow. The great orator can't communicate his priorities. His priorities are clear — but screwed up....

"The political strategy of the Administration can be summed up in a motto: 'Never waste a good crisis,' as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put it. That phrase has been the rallying cry of the Obama team for months. But it increasingly appears that the Administration was unprepared for both the severity of the recession and the political resistance to trying to do so much at once. And so the Obama team is coming to grips with another motto for the ages: Sometimes a crisis is an opportunity — but sometimes it's just a crisis...

"Inside the Administration, Obama's audacious budget sketch is seen as an intricate web of reinforcing reforms, an exquisite piece of re-engineering in which stimulus creates jobs, jobs generate revenues, revenues fund an efficient health-care system, which in turn tames the deficit. What critics consider a massive intervention to impose a price on carbon emissions is, to the White House, the engine for the growth of a robust new green economy. Meanwhile, students will begin graduating from improved schools and moving seamlessly into this prosperous future. Shortcomings may lie in the details, but the economy won't really be fixed until the entire web is assembled....

"The reason so many people were left slack-jawed by the Obama budget was not that they disagreed with his premise[s]...It was the real-world knowledge that financial calamity has not magically transformed our slow-moving, reform- resistant, cantankerous government into a peaceful, streamlined, problem-tackling machine. Every one of Obama's reforms will mean bigger political fights, consume more intellectual bandwidth and require more bravery from politicians than Washington has witnessed anytime in the past 15 years."

Alexander Bolton writes in The Hill: "Members of Congress and old political hands say he needs to show substantial progress reviving the economy soon.

"Some Democrats have started to worry that voters don’t and won’t understand the link between economic revival and Obama’s huge agenda, which includes saving the banking industry, ending home foreclosures, reforming healthcare and developing a national energy policy, among much else.

"While lawmakers debate controversial proposals contained in the new president’s debut budget — cutting farm subsidies, raising taxes on charitable contributions, etc. — there is a growing sense that time is running out faster than expected."

And Michael Hirsh writes for Newsweek about "the Blame Obama rhetoric that's been building in recent weeks. Even some who were the president's most fervent supporters on Inauguration Day are now saying plainly that, halfway through his first 100 days, Obama hasn't delivered on the biggest thing that he promised. He and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner pledged an overwhelming and powerful response to the crisis — an economic Powell doctrine that would restore confidence in the markets. Instead, we've had a hesitant if steady dribbling-out of new programs. What Obama has done is impressive in many ways, but it's hardly a New Deal."

But Hirsh also writes that the verdict may be a bit too quick. "Still, many of these criticisms will fade into irrelevance—along with the grim jokes about Geithner's imminent dismissal—if the banking problem starts to come around. We've got 50 more days to go—time enough for Obama to come out looking Rooseveltian yet."

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