Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Obama Bell Jar

When I tuned into President Obama's first news conference on Monday night, I expected a thoughtful explication of the Democratic bailout plan, perhaps leavened with a bit of wit. I was disappointed on both counts. The President was serious, long-winded, and even patronizing, and he didn't cogently explain how the bloated bailout bill will pull the country out of the coming depression. Instead, he scolded and even lectured the press and, by extension, the rest of us.

I expected better from President Obama and I'm concerned about what his tone portends for the future. He's only been in office for a few weeks, yet the bell jar already seems to be descending. Like a delicate object displayed under a bell-shaped glass cover, where it can be seen but not touched, Obama may already be trapped in the isolation of the Presidency. Obama's message during the news conference seemed to be that we should adopt the bailout plan because he's the President and he knows best. That sounds eerily similar to our last President. Remember him? He was the "decider."

What drew me to Obama during the campaign was my conviction that here was a man who sought the views of all sides and really listened. Yet during his news conference, he denounced those who oppose the bailout package for "playing politics rather than trying to solve the problems of the American people." Is that listening? I'm worried that soon Obama will only hear the congratulations of his staff, who surely patted him on the back after the news conference and exclaimed "Great job, Mr. President."

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