A brutal work and travel schedule prevented me from blogging this week. I did manage to watch President Obama’s press conference, however, and I must say that the Obama I saw was not entirely the same Obama I had been reading about on the conservative blogosphere.
The Obama I’d been reading about was at sixes and sevens, gaffe prone even though married to this teleprompter, and perhaps on the verge of melting down. Even the New York Times seemed to be having second thoughts about him.
The Obama I saw delivered an assured performance. He provided detailed answers to a range of questions without a teleprompter and without gaffes. The policies he defended ranged from the misguided to the abominable, and his pronouncements were frequently misleading and sometimes flatly dishonest. But they easily passed the political test — they were delivered with confidence and they sounded plausible or better.
There’s a saying in baseball that no team looks good losing 10-0. In politics, it’s difficult for a president to look good while presiding over a bad economy, even if it’s an economy he inherited. For example, the fact that a Treasury Secretary took a while to gain his bearings would be little remarked upon in a normal economy. In this economy, it has become a source of embarrassment for the president who appointed him. Nonetheless, the ultimate test for Geithner will not be whether he hit the ground running, but whether he eventually came up with sound policies for dealing with the banking crisis. The jury on that question has not even heard the evidence yet. The real test of Obama will not be how the economy fares this year, but how it fares in the following years. That evidence does not yet exist.
As the economy continues to “lose 10-0,” Obama will find it difficult to maintain his popularity. However, the communication skills he has displayed at his press conferences will help keep him afloat, whatever the New York Times thinks.
This is not yet an administration in trouble and this president should not be underestimated.