- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Obama effect

It’s more than a honeymoon at this point. Forgiving press coverage and public adulation of President Obama and his emerging policies is a given. Few dispute the fact that Mr. Obama is a likable “brand,” and the historic nature of his election has true staying power. Even Republicans caution one another not to wish failure on Mr. Obama.

But about that, uh-h-h, money.

“Just how much government debt does a president have to endorse before he’s labeled ‘irresponsible’? Well, apparently much more than the massive amounts envisioned by President Obama,” says Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson.

Like projected annual deficits totaling $7.1 trillion and future federal spending up by 75 percent.

“Except from crabby Republicans, these astonishing numbers have received little attention — a tribute to Obama’s Zen-like capacity to discourage serious criticism. Everyone’s fixated on the present economic crisis, which explains and justifies big deficits (lost revenue, anti-recession spending) for a few years. Hardly anyone notes that huge deficits continue indefinitely,” Mr. Samuelson observes.

He ultimately concludes, “The wonder is that these issues have been so ignored. Imagine hypothetically that a President McCain had submitted a budget plan identical to Obama’s. There would almost certainly have been a loud outcry: ‘McCain’s Mortgaging Our Future.’ Obama should be held to no less exacting a standard.”

The Bush effect

Former President George W. Bush couldn’t get a break from the press. But Mr. Bush couldn’t even get a break when he tried some charm.

Former USA Today correspondent turned university professor Richard Benedetto recently took The Washington Post to task for breathless personal coverage of the White House — the Obamas’ date nights, the first dog, the fashions.

“It’s all part of the White House building and honing the Obama image as a hard-working president who is everywhere addressing every problem and yet is honest-to-goodness, just-plain folks,” Mr. Benedetto says.

“That’s all well and good, but when former president George W. Bush tried to project his human side, the media pooh-poohed it as phony, or worse, ingenuous manipulation. No such concerns now. Where media folks never saw Bush as one of us, with Obama they apparently do. And it makes a big difference in the coverage.”

The Edwardsian era

Despite his public travails over infidelity, some want former presidential hopeful John Edwards to return to public office.

“In the fight to end poverty, there’s a gaping hole in the system. Paul Wellstone is gone, as is Jack Kemp. I don’t hear from Jesse Jackson anymore — and even if I did, I doubt he could get too many others to listen. On the right, Newt Gingrich has also gone silent, after once offering transformative ideas for the working class. But the biggest gap was left by Edwards, who had concrete plans for getting low-income kids to college, expanding access to bank accounts (28 million Americans don’t have one), and raising the minimum wage,” says MSNBC anchor Carlos Watson.

“Barack can’t do it alone. … Edwards was right then, and he’d be right now. Leveling the playing field will yield a more just America, and a more economically and socially dynamic America, as well.”

Days of yore

Yes, there was a “Newport.” On this day in 1607, Christopher Newport and 105 followers founded Jamestown on the coastline of Virginia.

This moment surely appealed to the sense of drama inherent in many lawmakers. Witnessed by Congress, Samuel Morse officially opened the first telegraph line 165 years ago today, sending a message between the Capitol and a Baltimore railroad station. The message, “What hath God wrought?” was taken from the Bible and suggested by 17-year-old Annie Ellsworth, the daughter of Henry Ellsworth, the commissioner of patents.

And speaking of railroads, consider the pre-Acela era. Today also marks the anniversary of the first time the B&O Railroad offered an air-conditioned passenger car between New York City and Washington in 1931.

Barry Goldwater faced a trying moment on this day 45 years ago. In an interview, the Arizona Republican suggested the U.S. drop low-yield atomic bombs in North Vietnam. Critics seized upon the idea and dogged him with it throughout his pursuit of the presidential nomination in 1964.

Quotes of note

“It is constantly necessary to remind oneself that not all liberals are mean-spirited. Because an extraordinary number of them are.” — John Hinderaker, Powerline.com.

“History is yours to bend.” — Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., to the graduating class of Wake Forest University.

“Richard Milhous Pelosi.” — headline in Human Events.

“Obama on D-Day. Will he apologise for this too?” — Herbert London, in the American Spectator.

By the numbers

39 percent of Americans say it’s important President Obama nominate a woman to the Supreme Court.

22 percent say it’s important he nominate a black.

26 percent say he should nominate a Hispanic.

89 percent say he should nominate someone with “experience as a judge.”

49 percent say he should nominate someone elected to public office.

27 percent say he should nominate a liberal.

37 percent want him to nominate a moderate.

35 percent want him to nominate a conservative.

Source: CNN/Opinion Research poll of 1,010 adults conducted May 14 to 17.

Contact Jennifer Harper at [email protected] or 202/636-3085. Follow her at twitter.com/harperbulletin.

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