Thursday, April 15, 2010

Adventures in Journamalism

Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair and self-professed libertarian, opens the May issue of VF with an essay that's critical of President Obama. His essay is just wrong in so many ways.

VF is a fantastic magazine and I love most of the work they do, but Carter's opening  op/ed is terrible and misinformed.

He writes:
... the sense of disappointment among [Obama's] Democratic supporters is growing. Many feel that he took a wrong turn right from the beginning on the domestic front, i.e., that rather than work on the economy, jobs, and bringing the nation's rogue banking system to heel, Obama stuck his hand in the same woodchipper (universal health care) that Clinton did during his first term, and expected a different result. In trying to bring affordable health care to all Americans, Obama was going for the history books more than for the 24-hour news cycle. And there was something admirable in that. But here's the thing about America and universal health care: unlike in other Western democracies, not all of its citizens want it.
My guess is that the president is a slider-that is, someone who slides through life. When you're that good, that handsome, that educated, the world in your adulthood is your oyster ... My guess is that he's like a clever student who writes well and figures he can bull his way through an assignment for which he hasn't really done the dogged groundwork ... The administration overreached and underprepared. 
Now, granted, Carter obviously wrote this editorial before the historic health-reform bill passed, but that's not the major mistake in his editorial.

He's clearly asserting that Obama should have 'focused' on the economy, jobs and bringing the financial system to heel rather than dither about on health care reform.  My answer to Carter on the first two issues would be: Did you forget the $700 Billion stimulus package Obama passed three months into his term? WTF?

I'm not sure how Carter can overlook the stimulus, unless of course, he's doing it willfully. But if not, what did he think the stimulus program was for? Fixing health care?

Fiscal stimulus is a rare program and one that's heavy on spending is even more rare. But it passed and it has, so far, done what it can to turn around the economy. I daresay Obama, and his administration, were focused on little else but the economy and jobs during their first four months in office.

The fact that the stimulus wasn't big enough, that Obama's economists underestimated the depth and breadth of the recession or that Obama himself watered down the bill in a pointless attempt to get Republican votes (none voted for it anyway) are all legitimate gripes. But complaining that Obama focused too much on health care rather than the economy is hogwash. Absolute hogwash.

As for the second issue? Well, it's true that Obama may have put financial regulation on the back burner to focus on health care. It's also true that there was growing sentiment that a chance at 'real' reform was slipping away the further the economy moved from the financial crisis -- that banking regulations were losing 'centrality' in voter minds. But even that might not be the case anymore. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor this week and, in an unashamedly pro-banking move, proclaimed that any legislation directed at regulating the banks should be voted down. McConnell was lambasted by his hometown newspaper for his shameless antics, and couldn't rally his fellow GOPers to oppose FinReg.

So it seems, quite rightly, that the Republicans realize how suicidal it would be for them to carry Wall Street's water the way they normally do. Which means there's more than just hope for meaningful financial reform, there's actually a pretty good chance meaningful financial reform will pass.

So can we expect a mea culpa from Carter in the June issue of Vanity Fair?  Will he apologize and say, "During Obama's first year in office he managed to pass an economic recovery package that, although too small, still kept unemployment below 11- or 12%. He also pushed through a historic health care reform bill, and now stands on the verge of meaningful financial reform."?

I'm not holding my breath.

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