In the Arena

Heckova Job?

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I just can’t get over this. As Brother Scherer says below, the President had, well, a sort of, hmm, well, it wasn’t exactly clear sailing on the Daily Show last night. And the “Heckova job, Larry” line is haunting–in large part because of the symmetry: The Bush presidency was deemed a failure because of its disastrous prosecution of the war in Iraq and, on a more accessible level, its disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina.

The Obama presidency is nowhere near the dire state of George W.’s was at his “heckofa” moment, but if there is a coherent narrative about the President’s economic performance among the public right now, it’s that his antennae were more fixed on Wall Street than they were toward Main Street. He was focused on bailouts and health care, but not on jobs. And Larry Summers–the guy who presided over the deregulation of the banks as Clinton’s Treasury Secretary (and the tail end of the banks’ bailout this time around)–would seem the poster child for the financial depredations that crushed the value of most American homes and caused the market despondency that now prevails.

No doubt, Summers’ expertise was necessary to get the country through the terrible winter of 2009. No doubt, the economy would have collapsed if the banks had not been bailed out (though I’m pretty sure that Goldman, Sachs didn’t need to be made whole in the more questionable AIG bailout). No doubt, Summer and Timothy Geithner did yeoman service during that time. But the source of Summers’ and Geithner’s expertise was a ruinously immoral financial system they help to create and nurture, even though they didn’t profit from it as obscenely as, say, Bob Rubin did. So Obama’s placing the heckova collar on Summers has deep resonance.

And, fairly or not, the President’s association with such people is a political burden that he will have to mitigate if he wants to regain the public’s trust on the economy once more.