It is tragic really. I know it is early to be making such a claim. But, the missed opportunities and lost potential are so disheartening.
Let's do a little John Lennon imagining...
Imagine if, during the transition phase, Obama's team laid out a plan to address the banking crisis. Let's say they planned a way to get the banks' toxic assets off the books. I'm not an economist, but I've heard and read several speaking on this as key to stabilizing the banking industry. I'm not saying the economy wouldn't have taken a dive. I'm saying a restoration of confidence by virtue of a plan to address the heart of the problem might have made the dive shallower and shorter term.
Imagine if, rather than allowing the widely despised demagogues Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to devise a spending package having almost nothing to do with stimulating productivity and economic growth, Obama's team had proposed a package including a tax holiday and supportive of small businesses. And then imagine the bipartisanship!
Imagine Obama proposing a quick-response regulatory agency which would have the job of assessing innovative financial instruments and advising Congress. Contrary to the claim Democrats love to make about this crisis being the fault of Republican deregulation, the real problem is virtually no regulation on new-fangled loan instruments devised by, shall we say, “creative” bankers. As the joke among economists goes, “a good regulator is only one crisis behind”.
Imagine if Obama had warmly welcomed Gordon Brown and kept the protocols of past presidents when greeting one of our strongest allies. How about a celebratory state dinner? How about gifts that were thoughtful? How about keeping the bust of Winston Churchill in a still prominent place if Obama didn't want it in the Oval Office? How about some graciousness – let alone common decency. Giving a nearly blind man a box of DVDs incompatible with British DVD players is appalling.
Imagine a president standing up to our long-term enemies in Russia, North Korea, Iran, Syria and China? How about securing Poland from Russian tanks rolling across her plains? How about working with the Chinese to convince them of their self-interest in containing and eventually dismantling the North Korean concentration camp, rather than begging them to continue funding our ever expanding debt? How about loudly proclaiming our permanent alliance with Israel and warning anyone who messes with her that they will feel the full force of American wrath?
Imagine a president restraining his impulse to fix the environment, education and health care until the financial sector stabilizes, rather than “taking advantage of the crisis.”
Well. I guess we can imagine anything, but in this case, we're imagining a Republican president. Not Barack Hussein Obama.