It is never a good day when the White House announces that the president “still” has confidence in ... fill in the blank. In this case, it’s Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, only two months into the administration.
But that gnawing feeling in the pit of the stomach is not just about Geithner. It’s primarily about our new president and his meager management skills.
Barack Obama’s micromanaging of banks, businesses and governors alarms many who believe in capitalism, federalism and limiting the role of the federal government. Did he learn nothing from the government micromanaging the housing market into crisis?
Obama is micromanaging and mismanaging his way out of favor with voters. Based on his performance, I’d say we’re about one executive order away from mandatory Friday Hawaiian Shirt Day.
Banks, governors and key industries being offered some serious coin by the Obama administration are saying, “Thanks but no thanks, Mr. President” — too many strings attached. Obama and Geithner are rapidly losing the confidence and trust of economists, receiving a failing grade by most, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/ABC survey. Likewise, a growing portion of the public have sobered since inhaling the Inauguration euphoria that hung thick in the air in the nation’s capital and newsrooms across the land. Rasmussen tracking shows Obama’s approval ratings down nine points since Jan. 20 while his disapproval numbers climbed 12 points.
Lacking the political courage and leadership to call out lawmakers for wasting federal funds on pork projects in the omnibus spending bill, (where micromanagement is appropriate), Obama dived headfirst into the details of running U.S. businesses. In both cases, even a mediocre manager would have been on top of the situation. Our current conundrum resembles a mutant hybrid scheme hatched on the fly by Jimmy Carter and Dwight Schrute, the bumbling knee-jerk reactionary assistant to the regional manager at Dunder Mifflin Paper Co. on NBC’s “The Office.”
From slapping down South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford’s (R) plan to use part of the federal stimulus funds routed to South Carolina to pay down state debt and ordering the return of bonuses from AIG executives to forbidding business meetings in Las Vegas for companies receiving federal funds, President Obama has placed himself in the position of being the nation’s version of the fictional sitcom character.
In true Dwight Schrute mode, if things don’t go his way, Obama can swiftly turn into a bully.
Just ask Gov. Sanford. The Democratic National Committee ran ads against him for being the same fiscal conservative today he’s been throughout his public life and whom the voters of South Carolina sent to Congress and the governor’s mansion. And what about AIG? Unable to predict the obvious, that bailout funds would somehow find their way into the pockets of executives who are proven failures, Obama again illustrated anemic management acumen. Failed bank executives tend to do things that enhance failure, such as rewarding failure with found money from taxpayers. With a deer-in-the-headlights look we are destined to become numbingly accustomed to, Obama vacillates between portraying the tough guy and playing the innocent who was duped. Is one really more attractive than the other?
Eager to pander with a populist message, Obama clumsily overlooked that Las Vegas business conferences are an economic mainstay for the city and the state when he put the “No Vegas” office rule into effect. An embarrassed White House was forced to manage the damage from that gaffe over the course of several days. The apology may have smoothed some hurt feelings, but not the negative impact to Nevada’s economy.