In the Arena

Obama on This Week

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I thought Barack Obama gave a strong, confident performance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos this morning–especially when you remember how halting and cautious he could be in these interview settings during the campaign. The guy has grown. So far as I could tell, there was nothing “eye-popping” in the interview, to use his phrase (in reference to the secrets he’d learned in his intelligence briefings). He stuck to positions that he maintained throughout the campaign, even when it came to examples of programs he would cut–like the subsidy to private insurers who take on medicare patients. 

Beyond that, the striking thing about the interview was this: he closed no doors. He didn’t even say that he wouldn’t fund the museum of organized crime in Las Vegas–although he did make it clear that there would be other, higher priorities. Another door he didn’t close: prosecuting the Bush Administration for the cornucopia of misdeeds that occurred over the past eight years–although, again, he made it clear that he would be focused on the future and such prosecutions would be highly unlikely. He remained vague on the Middle East–a sure sign, I believe, that his policy would be different from Bush’s, putting greater pressure on Israel to move toward a Gaza cease fire. But we’ll see. Only nine more days to wait now.

By the way: You’ve got to wonder what planet Jennifer Rubin is living on. These terrible troubles that she describes as buffeting Obama seem pretty small potatoes to me. This is irresponsible press strategy 101: Anytime anyone raises an objection–Dianne Feinstein on Leon Panetta’s CIA appointment–it is described as a “crisis”. (Some crisis: Feinstein was supporting Panetta within 24 hours.) Rubin is a right-wing propagandist, so she has a stake in Obama’s failure, but I’ve seen plenty of similar behavior among more mainstream journalists desperate to gin up a story. Remember when the Blagojevich scandal was the first “crisis” of his transition? For those of us who lived through Bill Clinton’s truly disastrous transition, Obama’s has been remarkably well run. (I suspect that Bill Richardson’s perfidy during the vetting process won’t even be a footnote in history.)

There will be crises ahead, real ones. Obama will screw up from time to time; no doubt, he’ll screw up big time on something or other. I can’t think of a President who didn’t. (This in contrast to George W. Bush who screwed up big time on practically everything.) But he hasn’t made any telling mistakes yet. Indeed, Obama’s palliative response to the mild skepticism of a few legislators this week regarding the stimulus package seems an excellent indicator that he knows how the sausage-making will work. A fearless prediction: Obama will get his massive stimulus through Congress within a month or so. Another fearless prediction: The Pajamas Media brigades, led by Ms. Rubin, will locate an Obama crisis every three days in perpetuity. One hopes that cooler media heads will prevail. Given the enormous problems facing the country, it’s time for people on my side of the notepad to focus on the steak, not the sizzle.

David Broder, who should know better, sounds positively Rubinesque in this column. A shame.