Obama Report Card: Not Exactly Failing

Our instant gratification society is a hard taskmaster.

Reading The Washington Post opinion section is like stepping through the looking glass.

Most of the pundits who own real estate on that page have, for all intents and purposes,declared the Obama presidency, like, so OVER. Done. Kaput. Finis. That's it. Over and done with. Thanks for playing. Time to move on.  He's immature. He's arrogant. Lacking real ideas, he cedes too much ground to the congressional Democrats

Except that's a real silly way to look at the actual reality.

Yes, some of these points are valid.  I've made a similar one with respect to Obama's dealing with Congress. But Obama pays attention (not to me, just generally). The last couple of weeks have been learning periods for Obama and his team; they've been guaging the tactics of Democrats and Republicans during these first few weeks.  I would be surprised if the president decided to grant Congress the same leeway he gave on the stumulus on future big-ticket items. 

I would also be surprised if Obama hasn't learned a bit about personnel issues, as well. You can bet the next HHS secretary will be properly vetted. And that person will likely be a politician who hasn't been out of office for too long -- and thus won't be so compromised by becoming a lobbyist.  Another hunch: Tim Geithner will be kept on a very short leash, and he may not be around when the 2010 midterm elections occur. 

But, as Ruth Marcus notes, some perspective is warranted. In three weeks, Obama and the Democrats have passed, a child-health care bill, a wage discrimination bill -- and the coup de grace--- Wednesday's economic stimulus bill.  From a Republican  perspective, all of these bills are horrendous. From a  cold, efficient, delivering-on-what-was-promised, perspective, however, this has been a blitzkrieg of legislation. 

Indeed, the conference agreement may go down in history as the first one to emerge as a lower-spending bill than either the House ($819 billion) or Senate ($838 billion) version (nevermind the $400 billion baseline from which  this process started).

Obama and Co. can now crow that they passed the stimulus package in less than a month -- AND "saved" money to boot. House Republican Leader John Boehner's statement that the conference report is a "bad bill [made] worse" sounds sour grapes. As difficult as it is to exist in the minority party, the GOP is going to have to come up with a better coordinated strategy than just relying on picking at little items in the Democrat's bills.  

The stimulus package may not be the pristine bit of bipartisan artistry that Obama's rhetoric implied at the beginning. On the other hand, as a reader at Talking Points Memo notes, the final legislation looks more like Obama's original outline than either of the two congressional bills. Furthermore, the passage gives Obama a chance to declare victory and move on. 

Just three weeks and counting, this administration is on something of a roll. Democrats and Republicans alike better recognize that this guy isn't joking around.  

Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.

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