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For Of All Sad Words of Tongue or Pen…

The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

Which is more or less what liberals now find themselves saying–even in print.

From the website of The New Republic, this remarkable item, suggesting that if only Barack Obama had listened to Timothy Geithner, then everything–ah, everything!–could have been different:

Toward the end of…[Jackie Calmes's New York Times article on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner]…she reports the following, which occurred on a conference call shortly after the 2008 election:

‘Mr. Obama spoke of the transformative domestic policies he had promised and now would pursue. Mr. Geithner, say people familiar with the exchange, cautioned that the crisis Mr. Obama had inherited was so severe that it would constrain him.“Your legacy is going to be preventing the second Great Depression,” Mr. Geithner said.Vexed, Mr. Obama replied, “That’s not enough for me.”’images-1.jpg

And there you have it: an advisor giving the president-elect wise advice, which was instantly rejected as insufficiently transformative. The rest is history.

From the moment he was elected, Obama had two agendas—the agenda of choice, on which he had waged his campaign, and the agenda of necessity, forced upon him by events. In effect, Geithner was arguing that the latter would require the president-elect to defer much of the former. Obama responded by deciding to do both, simultaneously. That is the choice that led to a year spent on measures such as health insurance reform and cap-and-trade legislation. While the former was successful and the latter failed, both initiatives no doubt measurably contributed to the Democrats’ 2010 mid-term debacle.

The analysis is still fundamentally mistaken–even if Obama had dedicated himself to pursuing it scrupulously, Geithner’s Keynesian analysis would have led to an expanding government, new burdens on the private sector, and, accordingly, dampened growth.  But still.  What we see here is a recognition that presidents live in a world of limited resources–that, like everyone else, they must sooner or later accept reality.

For liberals, this is a start.

  1. Paul A. Rahe
    C

    Barack Obama has been no more successful in using Keynesian measures than was Franklin Delano Roosevelt — who, prior to Pearl Harbor, had failed miserably in promoting anything approaching full unemployment.

    The chief difference between the two men is situational. Had George W. Bush been in office after the crash for as long as Herbert Hoover was, he, like Hoover, would have been awarded the blame for his successor’s fecklessness. It was Obama’s bad luck this time around that he became President shortly after the crash, and it is our good luck that this time it really is obvious that Keynesianism is a recipe for stagnation.

  2. DrewInWisconsin

    I understand the “if only” impulse, but “if only he’d listened to Timothy Geithner” boggles the mind.

  3. Illiniguy

    “What we see here is a recognition that presidents live in a world of limited resources–that, like everyone else, they must sooner or later accept reality.”

    So when exactly is this President going to accept reality? My guess is that it’ll not come to him at any time before January of 2013.

  4. Fredösphere

    And yet, for some observers, it is and always will be (as Franco points out on the member feed) the GOP that suffers from an excess of impracticality.

  5. Boots on the Table
    Illiniguy: “What we see here is a recognition that presidents live in a world of limited resources–that, like everyone else, they must sooner or later accept reality.”

    So when exactly is this President going to accept reality? My guess is that it’ll not come to him at any time before January of 2013. · Nov 18 at 1:28pm

    My guess is it will occur around the same time it occurs to former President Carter.

    For some reason St. Peter keeps coming to mind.

  6. Kervinlee

    What bugs me is the hagiographic tone – Obama as tragic hero thwarted by malign forces beyond his obvious magnificence. The truth is Barak Obama just doesn’t have the chops to do the job of the executive – and these liberal scribes are full of it.

  7. K T Cat

    $15T into this experiment, it seems as though the fundamental question remains not just unasked, but uncontemplated. What was the point of spending all that money and ceding all that power to government? When considering that question, it hardly seems to matter who Barack listened to unless it was Dave Ramsey.

  8. KC Mulville

    I’ve rarely seen anyone hold the welfare of so many hostage to his own personal self-image. The decisions is Iraq and Afghanistan, and the recent oil pipeline deal, are just the latest examples of a man who considers himself first, and everyone else second (or tenth). 

  9. Percival
    KC Mulville: I’ve rarely seen anyone hold the welfare of so many hostage to his own personal self-image.

    That, in one sentence, sums up Obama with brutal precision.

  10. wilber forge
    Percival

    KC Mulville: I’ve rarely seen anyone hold the welfare of so many hostage to his own personal self-image.

    That, in one sentence, sums up Obama with brutal precision. · Nov 18 at 5:52pm

    Agreed.

  11. Duane Oyen
    Peter Robinson

    From the moment he was elected, Obama had two agendas—the agenda of choice, on which he had waged his campaign, and the agenda of necessity, forced upon him by events. In effect, Geithner was arguing that the latter would require the president-elect to defer much of the former. Obama responded by deciding to do both, simultaneously. ………..

    The analysis is still fundamentally mistaken–even if Obama had dedicated himself to pursuing it scrupulously, Geithner’s Keynesian analysis would have led to an expanding government, new burdens on the private sector, and, accordingly, dampened growth.  But still.  What we see here is a recognition that presidents live in a world of limited resources–that, like everyone else, they must sooner or later accept reality.

    For liberals, this is a start. ·

    But, see the bolded/ital phrase- that is patently untrue.  Obama waged his campaign masquerading as a moderate, not a lefty, and then went the opposite direction when in office.  The entire thing was a fraud, and TNR is incorrect about that part.

    A cautionary tale for our side- don’t make sudden and radical-appearing moves.  Be deliberate, and explain everything- you have to sell it.

  12. Robert Pettengill

    He brings the instincts and approach (not a philosophy) of a community organizer.  What’s in that that qualifies for world leader?  It has been said he is a great speaker.  He is not.  He is said to be intelligent.  Based on what evidence?  Are we grasping for something to be positive about?  We really knew nothing about him.  And that’s what we got.  The “czars” and advisors, which could have been backstops for shortcomings, also are lacking or worse.  Next challenge: the 50% + (?) of Americans that don’t have a problem or don’t notice any of this.