The AIG bonuses, alienating our allies, that Special Olympics crack on "The Tonight Show" there's certainly plenty of competition, but this was probably the worst week of President Obama's nascent administration.
The problem wasn't just bad decisions followed by rash reactions and changing stories. The mistakes, oversights, cover-ups, and bad press of this past week all hit Obama in the most sensitive spots, undercutting the pillars on which he had built his rare transpartisan appeal.
Allowing a taxpayer-owned collapsing company to pay $165 million in bonuses including retention bonuses to employees who have left hardly reflects competence. The shifting account of who knew what and when hardly looks like honest politics. Adapting a posture of outrage only after the public outcry was heard and after the bonuses were approved hardly looks like new politics.
And as far as making us all feel the love evoking America's "glittering ideal," and calling "us back to our highest selves" Americans today are left furious at our government, resentful of AIG bonus babies, distrustful of Congress and the White House.
The mystique has crumbled. And with it, the fabled Obama coalition is disintegrating.
First, we learned that Geithner knew about the bonuses since the previous Monday. Then we learned that Obama knew about them before they were paid. The timeline has crept backwards since then, with a Fed report that Treasury had been told on Feb. 28. Some journalists reported that congressmen had been complaining about AIG bonuses late last year.The lack of clear answers on a timeline raises transparency questions, but also competence questions. Why didn't Geithner or Obama know earlier, and why didn't they do anything about them?
When the U.S. House rushed through a bill on Thursday, grabbing back most of this money through a 90% tax on 2009 bonuses paid by bailed-out banks, Obama applauded the measure as "a strong signal." But most observers winced at the spectacle. "There are third-world juntas that would think twice before doing this," liberal writer Noam Scheiber wrote in The New Republic.
There were other lowlights, too. On Tuesday, a White House official was reported telling Senate staffers that the President's proposals to cap greenhouse gas emissions and auction off emission permits could cost energy users three times the $646 billion estimated in the President's budget. That same day, it came out that Obama planned to make veterans cover some of their combat-related injuries in VA hospitals.
On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office issued its assessment of the President's budget, concluding that the President had underpriced his plans by $2.3 trillion. ...
Read the op-ed here. The mask is slipping.