Obama's dire rhetoric is not only unpresidential and unbecoming a leader in an economic crisis but also carries enormous risks for himself and his presidency.
The Washington Times:
Politico spells out the risks:
Mr. Hope has to be careful not to become Dr. Doom," said Frank Luntz, a political consultant and author of the book "Words That Work: It's Not What You Say, It's What People Hear."
"The danger for him is using the Jimmy Carter malaise rhetoric, particularly for Mr. Obama, who was elected because people thought he was the solution. There's only so much negativity they will tolerate from him before they will feel betrayed," Mr. Luntz said.
Brad Blakeman, a senior aide to Mr. Bush from 2001 to 2004, said the new president's language is immature.
"It's not presidential. An American leader needs to be hopeful and optimistic - and truthful. Everything he says is parsed; everything he says is searched for deep meaning. When he goes to 'DefCon 5' on the economy and says that we're on the brink of catastrophe, it's absolutely insane."
With his fiery rhetoric, the new president runs the risk of terrifying consumers and investors, which could depress the economy even further. While the economy is bad, it is a far cry from Great Depression levels, when as many as 30 percent of Americans were unemployed, compared with the 7.6 percent now.
The risks for Obama are considerable. He and the Democrats will have no one else to blame if the package fails to boost the economy. Obama himself has said his first term can be judged on whether it succeeds, whether it creates or saves the 3 million to 4 million jobs he promises.
And if the economy fails to show marked signs of improvement — a possibility indeed — Republicans will have a megabillion-dollar “I told you so” in their pockets, just in time for the 2010 midterm elections and Obama’s own reelection bid in 2012.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the fallout from a Democrat-only bill will be “squarely in the president and the Democratic leadership’s lap.”
In short, the president will lose all credibility if the economy continues to tank - as many experts agree it will even if Obama's stimulus plan is passed. He has said in no uncertain terms that if the bill is not passed, there will be a catastrophe, implying that the economy will recover if we do as he wishes. When it doesn't Obama will be in the same position Jimmy Carter found himself after 6 months in office - an irrelvancy.
Indeed, Obama might do well to tone down his rhetoric. Here's Alan Reynolds writing in the New York Post:
PRESIDENT Obama, writing in The Washington Post, said, "By now, it's clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression." But how would we know if and when this crisis is really more "deep and dire" than others?
Many may believe we're in the worst recession since the Great Depression, if only because politicians and the press keep repeating that claim. But we need to compare some facts to discern whether this recession is (or will be) "worse" in some sense than those of 1973-75 or 1981-82.
Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf told the House Budget Committee that if the economy is still contracting by mid-year, then this recession will be longer than the 1981-82 and 1973-75 downturns, each of which lasted 16 months. Yet this recession was quite mild until last September. And the severity and human discomfort of downturns can't be measured by their duration.
The president needs to be a calming voice right now, a source of strength. It's not helpful for him to be warning of a "catastrophe" and making vague, untenable allusions to the Great Depression.
Recessions have almost always ended within a year or so, long before there was a Federal Reserve or Keynesian theory. Debts have to be worked down and excess inventories sold off so that profits, and therefore stock prices and wealth, can revive.
Is it too much to ask Obama not to carry on with this constant fear mongering? Instead of inspiring us, he is trying to stampede the public into supporting his bill. And chances are, he will regret it when his plan fails to have the desired effect on the economy.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky