The messiah of November has disappeared, gone off to winter somewhere in another galaxy and lounge among the stars. Who knows when (or whether) he'll return. He left a gloomy surrogate with a melancholy message.
The messiah promised "change" but so far demonstrates only that the men we send to live in the White House have changed. FDR called our stoic grandparents to the fireside to tell them there was nothing to fear but fear itself. They believed him, pulled up their socks, survived the Great Depression and went on to fight and win a great world war.
Dr. Doom tells us that fear is the best friend we're likely to find. Ronald Reagan arrived in Washington to clean up after Jimmy Carter, demonstrated that it's still morning in America, and won the Cold War. Dr. Doom tells us that it's late on a dark and stormy night, grovels toward Mecca, and tells ghost stories.
"This recession might linger for years," Dr. Doom, aka President Obama, told us Thursday. "Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that at some point we may not be able to reverse."
Woe is definitely us. Why worry about bird flu, global warming or a speeding rock from outer space if we won't be around to see any of those disasters? This is scant reassurance from the confidence man of summer.
In a piece of op-ed commentary in The Washington Post, he puts a little realistic distance between himself and credulous Republicans and other conservatives. "I reject these theories [such as tax cuts], and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change," he writes.
This will come as big news to a lot people who took a flyer on Mr. Obama, persuaded by his friendly embrace of the idea that cutting taxes is good, and his promise not to bother anyone earning less than 200 grand. That was then. Now he only reminds us that he's the president, and we're not.
He picked a day as gloomy as the message to suggest that all is woe. New surveys establish with statistics what mere observation tells: Retail sales, traditionally the engine of the economy, continue to weaken, and claims for unemployment insurance have spiked by 626,000, the highest in more than a quarter of a century. The number of Americans applying for continuing benefits approaches 5 million. Not good.
The Democrats in the Senate continue to load up the bailout, with the cost of the largesse topping $920 million and rising. Senators are throwing billions around like there's no tomorrow, and if Dr. Doom is correct, there isn't. The only good news is that it's the economy, Stupid, and as long as the news is really bad Stupid won't notice all the trouble Dr. Doom is having getting his cronies settled into their jobs in his administration. But this news is good only for Dr. Doom.
He continues to insist that his administration will be the most ethical in the nation's history, and if he's counting on averaging his ethics we should expect perfection from here on. His early start is not promising. Sins in the private lives of the nominees, like the most recent revelation by USA Today that his choice for Secretary of Labor suffers from tax irregularity, this season's ailment of choice, continue to sprout like acne. Or rather her husband suffers tax irregularity, specifically a 16-year-old dispute over $6,400 in tax liens against his business.
The new Obama administration is not, to be sure, the first to try to sell damaged goods, and some of the sins are more venial than mortal. But the cronies of earlier presidents took only peanuts. Mr. Obama's blue-chip cronies helped themselves to spiced pecans. Harry S. Truman's military aide peddled his influence for a mere deep-freeze. Dwight Eisenhower's chief of staff took only a cashmere-and-vicuna topcoat.
If only we had affordable child care for working mothers and cheap mass transit, the millionaire Cabinet nominees of Barack Obama, and of Bill Clinton before him, wouldn't have been tempted to cheat on their nannies or bum free rides in other folks' limousines.
Once exposed, these guys and gals don't seem to learn much from experience, and our new president from the South Side of Chicago is having a hard time selling the idea that his reputation for 99 and 44/100ths percent purity remains intact.
His nominees still don't understand that the bordello madam should be welcomed to a pew at the back for the Sunday morning service, but shouldn't expect to teach a Sunday school class.