In 1988, Teddy Kennedy famously shouted “Where was George” during the Democrat’s National Convention. (To which I think it was P.J. O’Rourke who brilliantly responded: At home, in bed, with his wife, sober.) To the question of “Where is Obama” during the market’s current turbulence, David Frum explains “Why Obama is AWOL on the market meltdown”:
As happened in 1932, the incoming administration in 2008 has two very immediate and obvious messaging goals:
-Think how many histories of the New Deal open with the nightmare situation prevailing on Inauguration Day 1933: banks closed, breadlines extending around corners, etc. What if FDR had worked with Herbert Hoover to improve conditions starting in December? Would the “coming of the New Deal” (to borrow the title of a famous book) have resonated nearly so dramatically in March?
The persistence of emergency into January will enable the incoming Obama administration to easily enact all its legislation, including legislation unrelated to the crisis –like a big new healthcare plan.
-The worse things look in November and December, the more indelibly the new team can stamp the outgoing team with the stigma of failure. It’s urgent for Barack Obama that the Republican brand remain discredited not just for a season or two, but until November 2012.
Times may remain tough for some months to come. The worse Bush looks in 2008, the longer Obama can blame him for the problems of 2009, 2010, 2011… who knows how long?
Democrats campaigned against Herbert Hoover into the 1960s. John McCain campaigned against Jimmy Carter 28 years after the failure of that presidency. George W. Bush will be a Democratic byword for a generation to come — and if it takes one unnecessarily nasty winter to maximize the impact of the byword, that seems a price that Democrats are more than prepared to pay. Or more exactly: to have Americans and the world pay.
As Mark Steyn is fond of saying:
When the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dumped some of his closest cabinet colleagues to extricate himself from a political crisis, the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe responded: “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his friends for his life.”
Obama has simply taken that aphorism to its logical conclusion.