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Posted by on Feb 21, 2009 in Economy, Politics | 5 comments

Are Obama’s Speeches Getting Ahead Of His Accomplishments?


The Swamp’s Mark Silva raises a valid point for anyone who has insisted on the need for government to have less spin, particularly in light of the experience of the Bush administration: are President Barack Obama’s comments now starting to get a bit a head of his actual accomplishments after just one month in office?

Isn’t it time that the “say it often enough and people might think it’s so” school of government changes its teaching practices? The Bush administration had this down to a fine art — and it’s safe to say that when historians get through it will be judged to have had a credibility gap that surpassed LBJ’s or Richard Nixon’s. It could be argued that Obama’s early comments are to aimed to instill hope and confidence akin to what former President Bill Clinton suggested). But Silva has a valid point for those of us who blasted the Bush administration for assertions frequently at variance with the actual facts:

“Because of what we did,” President Barack Obama says today, things will get better. He says so, repeatedly.

So this is as good a time as any to ask if the president’s good speechwriting is getting in the way of good policy.

In the weekly radio and Internet address which Obama delivers today – one month-plus into the new presidency, we have grown accustomed to a new brand of communication that involves not only a weekly radio communiqué, but also the president himself, appearing in person, via the video wonder of broadband service – the president states, no fewer than six times in today’s radio and online address, that, “because of what we did,” things will get better.

Yet in the past two weeks alone, there is an argument to be made that, because of what the administration has not done — not adequately explaining how all of its economic rescue efforts will really work — financial markets have slid into even worse shape than they stood a month before for lack of confidence that what needs being done is actually getting done.

Silva details what has happened the past few weeks. And RealClearMarkets has this piece by George Bittlingmayer, Wagnon Professor of Finance at the University of Kansas, and Thomas Hazlett, Professor of Law & Economics at George Mason University, that contend the markets are now “shorting” Obama’s stimulus.

Here’s what Obama actually said today:

What’s the reality?

1. Initial reaction to Obama’s plans have not be stellar but it is TOO EARLY to tell at this point. A month isn’t six months, a year or four years (“No duh…”) and all of the administration’s programs haven’t been rolled out or even put in place yet.

2. It’s TOO EARLY TO TELL despite criticism from Republicans and new and old media Republican pundits who declared Obama a failure before he even placed his fanny in the Oval Office chair — before he even was sworn in. There are folks stuck perpetual campaign mode — and policies and issues seem more like take off points for attack than approaches that are seriously analyzed for their merits. Clearly, the administration is now unveiling its plans and as in the case of its comments on bank nationalization, responding to developments as quickly as it can. Will that be enough? TOO EARLY TO TELL.

3. It’s TOO EARLY TO TELL if it’s going to work, despite Obama’s comments and despite some on the left and many Democrats who are confident it will all fall into place or that now that the stimulus was passed a true recovery has begun.

The bottom line words: IT’S TOO EARLY TO TELL.

So assertions that we now see that things are working or not working by those who like Obama, hate Obama or any insinuations of certainty by Obama himself need to be taken with a big, fat grain of this:


Cartoon by Eric Allie,

The above cartoon is copyrighted and licensed to appear on TMV. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

UPDATE: Related links are HERE.