October 13, 2008


Questioning Obama (Dan Balz, 10/13/08, The Trail: Washington Post)

The presidential race is not over, but at this point, Obama has a better chance of becoming president than McCain, and as a result, the questions ought to be going toward him as much or more than McCain -- questions not of tactics but of substance.

Obama has dealt deftly with the economic crisis -- at least in a political sense. Unlike McCain, he was fairly calm during the first days after Lehman's collapse and the government bailout of AIG.

He stayed in close contact with Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke and with Democratic congressional leaders. He both embraced the sense of urgency to act on the $700 billion bailout package and offered criticisms of the administration's initially sketchy plan. His criticisms were in line with changes that Congress made before eventually approving the package.

But it's not clear that he has had any better ideas -- or put them forward more aggressively -- than Paulson and Bernanke when it comes to dealing with the crisis in the credit markets. It's not clear that he has pushed ideas that would have dealt with the crisis more effectively. At every turn, he has voiced support for the general course the administration has outlined, but he's not been far out ahead.

Nor is it evident that he has dealt realistically with the impact the economic crisis may have on the next president. He has not backed away from ambitious plans for a second stimulus package, for dramatically expanding health care, for reducing dependence on foreign oil or for other spending plans that long have been part of his campaign agenda.

Changing circumstances have not changed his view of what can or should be done if he becomes president. It would be helpful to voters to know now, rather than after the election, whether he will take a zero-based look at everything and rearrange priorities.

What priorities? If he's elected he'd like to pass some health care tidbits and tax credits but does anyone--including him--know what he'd do beyond such marginal tinkering? And if that's all he really has plans for--as seems likely--then how can these people who think he's the Second Coming help but be disappointed and how does he stop Congress from taking control of the governing agenda?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 13, 2008 5:53 PM
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