In the final years of his second term, it was not unusual to
find George W. Bush’s motorcade routes lined with protesters chanting their
objections or spelling them out on handmade signs. On Monday, President
Barack Obama traveled to one of the most economically imperiled parts of the
country Elkhart, Ind. to find his route bordered by hundreds of waving
It continues to be this way for Obama, despite a three-week run
in the White House that has seen tax scandals, a public admission of presidential missteps and a bitter, sometimes chaotic legislative battle over his $800 billion stimulus plan. The new President remains close to a national golden boy, even as he now oversees a U.S. economy in free fall, the likes of which has not been recorded since before World War II. After Obama was pilloried by pundits for losing control of the stimulus fight inside the Beltway, a Gallup poll conducted late last week found that twice as many Americans approved of Obama’s handling of the stimulus package than of his Republican congressional foes’ work on the issue.
Obama proved what a skilled communicator he is on the campaign trail. But with the presidential bully pulpit now at his disposal, his substantial ability to explain himself at a time of widespread disillusionment is the source of tremendous power. Obama chose Monday to come before the American people for his first prime-time address, a dour and downbeat press conference that he used to offer a blunt warning of the perils ahead.
On the economy, he spoke of his concern that the country, burdened by government debt, could descend into a “catastrophe” if no immediate action is taken by Congress. On the war in Afghanistan, he warned of a “big challenge” and an uncertain time line for a
withdrawal. He even bemoaned the revelation that slugger Alex Rodriguez had
used steroids. “It’s depressing news on top of what’s been a flurry of
depressing items when it comes to Major League Baseball,” he said.