Instead of exerting a calming influence, Obama ramps up the fear connected with the shutdown.
Watch his demeanor, too; chilling:
But actually this is nothing new, it’s how Obama rolls. Why do I say that? It was also his reaction (although back then it was more subtly expressed) when he was candidate Obama, during the financial crisis of September 2008.
Here’s what I observed at the time:
Obama’s response has not only been more partisan [than McCain's], it is also more alarmist. Felix Salmon of Finance Blog compares and contrasts the candidates’ statements on the crisis, and Obama’s comes up short in more departments, including one area I had also noticed: Obama has publicly labeled it “the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
…[I]f Obama keeps talking like this, he might do his bit to contribute to its ultimately fitting that definition.
Obama would do well to remember that it was a fellow-Democrat who understood the principle that investor panic can make these things a great deal worse, and who said as much during that Great Depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Obama is reckless to speak as though a such a catastrophe has already occurred, drumming up fear rather than attempting to calm it through a realistic appraisal of what we are facing right now.
Why would he want to do that? Obama knew that the worse the crisis seemed, the better it was for his chances of election. By immediately painting Republicans as having caused a crisis of the utmost severity, John McCain as out of touch (which he actually was, unfortunately), and himself as the sober solution—despite his complete lack of knowledge of economics—Obama knew it would almost guarantee him the presidency. And the worse the crisis was perceived to be, the more time the public would give him to fix it when he was president, and the longer he could go on blaming Bush for the nation’s problems.
Same here, although of course it’s not Obama running for election. But the Congressional election of 2014 looms, and he’d love to have a Democratic Congress. Making the crisis worse and demonizing Republicans for it (as though he has no options here) may seem like a winning hand.
[NOTE: By the way, FDR actually did something not all that different in the leadup to his 1932 inauguration. He may have uttered the “fear itself” quote after he was president, but beforehand this was his attitude:
Hoover, according to Alter, tried to involve Roosevelt in end-of-term actions, suggesting to the then-President-elect that they jointly appoint delegates to a World Economic Conference to be held in June 1933 (three months after FDR’s inauguration), a highly touted meeting which was arranged to tackle the global Depression. Roosevelt rejected the overture, fearing that his New Deal would be seen as just a continuation of the Hoover Administration if he worked with the departing President.
Alter wrote that on February 18, just two weeks before inauguration day, Hoover tried again to enlist Roosevelt into a joint effort — including a bank holiday — to stabilize markets, but again Roosevelt rebuffed the President.
In his book, Alter quotes James Warburg, a member of Roosevelt’s inner circle. The Roosevelt brain trust “wanted it to get as bad as it was going to get before he took office, so that he could come in on the turn rather than in the continuing downward spiral.”
For his part, years later, Hoover wrote the bank crisis that ensued “was the most political and unnecessary bank panic in all our history” and “it could have been cured by simple cooperation.”
There’s much more on that score. I have some notes for a longer post I plan to write—some day!—on the subject.]
[ADDENDUM: I noticed that the link to the Salmon article in the quote from my post from 2008 seems to go to a shorter version of the article that doesn’t have the full quote. So for anyone who wants to read the whole quote I’m referring to, here’s a link to another article with it, and here’s the important section of the quote:
Obama said that this latest development in the financial world is “as bad as anything we’ve ever seen…This is a serious, serious situation. We’ll have a lot of rebuilding to do. This turmoil is a major threat to our economy. There are too many folks in the U.S. and Washington D.C. who weren’t mending the store. This is the most serious financial condition since the Great Depression.”]
[ADDENDUM II: More here from Larry Kudlow.]