Obama’s Balancing Act: Hope vs. Reality
The Obama administration has spent all day talking up the President’s address to Congress, describing it as “Reaganesque,” as Politico put it.
Here are some excerpts of Obama’s preliminary remarks, just released by the White House:
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.
Sounds Reaganesque to me. But I don’t know if that matters. It’s unfortunate for Obama that he makes his big not-quite-State of the Union speech on a day when the Federal Reserve reported that delinquency rates rose sharply in the fourth quarter of last year in all categories — residential real estate, commercial real estate and credit cards. It was also a day when new data show that home prices plunged by more than 18 percent, the sharpest annual drop on record.
Obama’s speech also comes at a time when it’s often hard to take at face value assurances about an economic recovery — after a decade in which most experts failed to recognize the housing bubble and crowed about the end of recessionary cycles.
Given all that, he faces an incredibly difficult balancing act, between hope and reality. With a financial crisis that gets worse by the day, he’ll have to go beyond Reaganesque and soaring rhetoric.
He’ll need to assure the American people that things will be OK again - and that he can get us out of this mess. And he’s got to make us believe that, even though the steady drumbeat of bad economic news makes us wonder if either can be true.