Our political (and economic) quote of the day comes from MSNBC’s First Read’s always-perceptive Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro, who raise the question of whether the U.S. is essentially at “war” given the crisis — and, if that’s the case, why Democrats, Republicans and the press don’t seem to notice:
Opinion leaders are beginning to come to this conclusion: America is at war dealing with this economic crisis. Warren Buffett was the first to say it earlier this week. Then yesterday, the New York Times’ Tom Friedman declared, “Economically, this is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12.” And the Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein added, “What we are facing is the economic equivalent of a war.” All three men posed this question: If we’re at war, then why aren’t people acting like it? Why isn’t the Obama administration, instead of scoring easy hits on Rush Limbaugh, doing everything it can to develop a clear and transparent plan to fix the banking crisis? Why does the Republican Party seem more interested in 2010 and 2012 than rolling up its sleeves to work with Democrats? Why are folks on Wall Street engaged in short-selling — i.e., betting against the economy? And why is the press covering all of this like a political campaign or expecting that, on Day 52, Obama should have already been able to turn the economy around? David Ignatius also makes this point: “The culture of immobilism starts on Capitol Hill. These people are still working a four-day week, taking Fridays off so they can run home and tell constituents how diligent they are. They may talk about a crisis, but they don’t act like it’s real.”
And, indeed, when history is written, historians will be sure to notice how — with breathtaking and almost neck-breaking speed — despite the biggest American economic meltdown since the Great Depression Republicans, Democrats and the media were so quick to get back into political skirmish positions for continuing standard political battles as if was business as usual. Each side will explain with lawyerly arguments there are good reasons for this and point to the other — and depending on your political prism, these explanations will be perfectly logical.
But the bottom line is that the sense of urgency Americans felt where there seemed to be an emerging national consensus that survival was at stake and that it couldn’t be business as usual, has nearly vanished now. The now feeling isn’t like the feeling during the melt-down in Oct. It isn’t like the feeling like immediately after Obama’s inauguration (even though Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity made it clear that nothing had changed at all and that all Democrats had still had pitchforks and horns before Obama even set his fanny in the Oval Office chair). It most assuredly isn’t the feeling like after 911.
The political parties all seem largely focused on positioning themselves for 2010 AND 2012 and partisans seem focused on the next election. The perception is growing that concern seem to have shifted in the political class from how we’re in survival mode and better get together ASAP to how can each party can make sure they look best to voters and their bases in 2010 and 2012 — or how someone with a private jet and a multi-million dollar contract can increase his audience share.
Meanwhile, The Hill reports that both Republicans and Democrats say Obama’s honeymoon is ending and that (after less than two months office) he needs to show some clear progress on the economic front soon.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.