Friday, February 10, 2012

Gospel According to Suskind Chapter 13

It's pretty clear now that Suskind's message is not so much that Emanuel, Summers, or Geithner - or probably any of the other people who talked to him - failed, but Obama. Obama, it seems, could give terrific speeches but flunked follow up.

Perhaps most momentous and characteristic was his encounter with the Captains of all the big banks on Wall Street. They were shaking in their boots. Obama told them that he was all that stood between them and the pitchforks and they all got the reference. Then he made his catastrophic mistake.

Obama is a consensus seeker to his core. He likes to find a position everybody can agree on. But his audience was an audience of sharks. They understood fear and they understood weakness. If Obama had wielded the former like a sword they would have bowed to any demand that spared their necks. Instead, he told them "I'm here to help you." They smelled weakness and blood and his power evaporated like a bad Wall Street dream.

Obama reached the Presidency with as little executive experience as almost any previous President. Moreover, he was confronted with the worst crisis of any President since Rooseveldt. There is nothing shocking about the fact that he made mistakes. It's pretty hard to imagine that a relatively dimwitted gambler like McCain - himself hardly strong on executive experience - wouldn't have made a lot of worse ones.