Who's In Charge?
As the economic crisis worsens, Washington is strangely silent. Our current President ventures forth infrequently, with terse statements and little else. Most of us know, or assume, that he has no answers to the current situation, as it's his policies that have brought us to this point. But, as President, shouldn't he at least offer some reassurances that we will recover, that we are a strong nation that has faced worse, and come out of it for the better?
President-elect Barack Obama finds himself in the position of being the one to whom the nation is looking for answers, but is a man with no power as of yet. The question is: How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot. Consider how much darker the economic picture has grown since the failure of Lehman Brothers, which took place just over two months ago. And the pace of deterioration seems to be accelerating.
Many people are comparing this downward spiral to that leading to the Great Depression. During the Depression, there was also a huge power vacuum at the height of the crisis. We are stuck in the same situation, where the current administration lacks credibility, and the future administration has no power. We find ourselves wondering, "Who's in charge?".
Joe Klein, at Time's Swampland, has this to say: "The problem is that nothing of significance can or will happen until the new President takes office in January, even though there is--finally--a great appetite for action in Washington. This is going to be a very frustrating few months. All of a sudden we understand how our grandparents felt in the winter of 1932-3, waiting for Franklin Roosevelt--and why the inauguration was moved up from March 4 to January 20 thereafter."
With the stock market showing a rally with the news of Timothy F. Geithner as the probable Sec. of Treasury, Barack Obama faces a real challenge; How to slow the tumble into economic disaster, without usurping the powers of a lame duck president. He seems to have found a good beginning by rolling out his economic team on Monday. This team consists of experienced people who are more pragmatic than ideological, much like Obama himself.
A President-elect customarily introduces his foreign policy team first. But once again, Obama answers the needs of the nation, and does things differently. By introducing his economic team, he can hopefully offer comfort, reassurance, and encouragement to the American people, while not stepping on the toes of President Bush. We can only hope that this will help stem the tide of the economic downturn, put a band-aid on it, until we have an effective president in the Oval Office: President Barack Obama.
January 20, 2009 cannot come soon enough for me.