Barack Obama is a man in a very big hurry. For those of us who have been paying attention, this is nothing new. As soon as he won his Senate seat–if not before–Obama began planning a run for the presidency. A humbler man might have waited until he had a little experience under his belt, but Obama didn’t want to wait.
During his primary run he repeatedly claimed to have already won the nomination. No sooner had he come in first in Iowa, then his minions at the cable networks and the Cheeto blogs were calling for Hillary Clinton to step aside so he could get on with the general election. Hillary managed to slow him down a bit when she won New Hampshire and went on to do well on Super Tuesday. But even as Hillary continued to win primary after primary in traditionally Democratic states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, Obama’s campaign continued to claim that he had already won.
Well it turned out the fix was really in, and now we know that, long before either party convention, Obama and John McCain were already working together.
A senior Obama campaign official shared with The Washington Note that in July 2008, the McCain and Obama camps began to work secretly behind the scenes to assemble large rosters of potential personnel for the administration that only one of the candidates would lead.
Lists comprised of Democrats and Republicans were assembled, sorted into areas of policy expertise, so that the roster could be called on after the election by either the Obama or McCain transition teams.
Isn’t that nice and collegial? And so post-partisan! Think of all the thousands of people who could have saved the time they spent fighting for a roll call vote at the Democratic Convention! If only Obama had let us know that he and McCain were already divvying up the spoils and our votes were never going to count anyway.
And now McClatchy Newspapers reports that the President-elect is already governing as a virtual “co-president” with our actual, but lame duck chief executive George W. Bush.
President Bush and President-elect Obama have been working together in an unusual comity that Princeton University professor Julian Zelizer calls “the split-screen presidency.” The unusual transition is born of the 24-7 nature of the global economic crisis and the fact a strong president-elect is succeeding a lameduck voluntarily leaving office.
Julian Zelizer, a professor at Princeton University calls it “the split-screen presidency” Where is that in the Constitution? Oh well, never mind. It’s just a piece of paper, right?
Monday gave a vivid illustration of the comity that’s characterized the Bush-Obama minuet.
Bush had a cup of coffee in midmorning with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to discuss the government’s decision Sunday to help ailing banking giant Citigroup. Later, on the steps of the Treasury building, next door to the White House, Bush assured the nation that Washington was ready to take similar action to help other financial institutions.
His statement took only two minutes, but it included this paean to his successor: “I talked to Obama about the decision we made. I told the American people, and I told the president-elect when I first met him, that anytime we were to make a big decision during this transition, he will be informed, as will his team.”
About an hour and a half later, Obama unveiled his economic team at a Chicago news conference and mentioned that he’d spoken to Bush and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke earlier Monday.
McClatchy suggests a possible reason for Obama’s anxiety to get started:
Obama, analysts argue, needs to appear in control not only to reassure markets but also to establish his credibility. The former Illinois U.S. senator has no record of economic management and was barely known outside his home state until he ran for president.
Unfortunately, Obama’s urgent desire to get begin running the show hasn’t yet been reflected in the kind of original thinking needed to deal with the unprecedented economic crises facing the country. Economist Peter Morici of the University of Maryland told CNN that Obama needs to think “outside the box,” but the economic team he has named includes “conventional” thinkers like Lawrence Summers and Tim Geithner who were deeply involved in pushing the deregulation that led to the current banking crisis. Morici suggests that Obama might want to look outside the Northeast liberal establishment for advice.
That bastion of Northeast liberals, the New York Times, has similar complaints about Obama’s economic team.
In various high-level government positions, Timothy Geithner, Mr. Obama’s choice for Treasury secretary, and Lawrence Summers, his choice for director of the National Economic Council, each have demonstrated a capacity for good judgment and good ideas.
Both served in the Clinton Treasury Department — Mr. Summers as secretary and deputy secretary and Mr. Geithner as a top aide — where they won high marks for helping manage the fallout of that era’s crises, including the Mexican peso devaluation, the Asian financial meltdown, the Russian bond default and the collapse of the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management.
Both men, however, have played central roles in policies that helped provoke today’s financial crisis. Mr. Geithner, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, also has helped shape the Bush administration’s erratic and often inscrutable responses to the current financial meltdown, up to and including this past weekend’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Citigroup.
William Greider of the Nation sounds surprised and disappointed too:
A year ago, when Barack Obama said it was time to turn the page, his campaign declaration seemed to promise a fresh start for Washington. I, for one, failed to foresee Obama would turn the page backward. The president-elect’s lineup for key governing positions has opted for continuity, not change. Virtually all of his leading appointments are restoring the Clinton presidency, only without Mr. Bill. In some important ways, Obama’s selections seem designed to sustain the failing policies of George W. Bush.
Similarly, the above-mentioned Peter Morici told ABC news,
“What you’re going to see in the next 48 hours is a continuity….We’re going to really learn that the Obama administration and the Bush administration are not much different when it comes to banking policy and economy policy.”
So our President-elect is in a big hurry…to get to the status quo? I’ll let our in-house economic expert, Dakinikat, tell us if that’s a good thing or not. To me it sounds like a weak response to an unprecedented financial crisis. But what do I know?
Filed under: Barack Obama, General, Hillary Clinton, Politics, Presidential Election 2008 Tagged: | Barack Obama, CNN, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Julian Zelizer, Lawrence Summers, McClatchy Newspapers, Peter Morici, Timothy Geithner, Washington Note, William Greider