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The WaPo's Obama Hit Parade

10:21 AM, Mar 9, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Robert Samuelson takes a solid whack at Obama in "Obama's Double Talk:"

To those who believe that Barack Obama is a different kind of politician -- more honest, more courageous -- please don't examine his administration's budget...

Obama is a great pretender. He repeatedly says he is doing things that he isn't, trusting his powerful rhetoric to obscure the difference. He has made "responsibility" a personal theme; the budget's cover line is "A New Era of Responsibility." He says the budget begins "making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline." It doesn't...

If Obama were "responsible," he would conduct a candid conversation about the role of government. Who deserves support and why? How big can government grow before higher taxes and deficits harm economic growth? Although Obama claims to be doing this, he hasn't confronted entitlement psychology -- the belief that government benefits once conferred should never be revoked.

Read the whole thing. It doesn't get any kinder. The WaPo editorial page takes Obama to task for abdicating his campaign promises on the omnibus bill because he "inherited" it from Bush:

President Obama's not-my-problem stance may be canny politics: Why put any political capital into this one when there are so many other difficult fights to come? But his asserted stance that this is, in the words of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, "last year's business," borders on irresponsible. This may be last year's business, but Mr. Obama is this year's president.

The uproar over the omnibus has centered on earmarks or, as defenders would have it, congressionally directed spending to the tune of almost $8 billion. No doubt some of these projects are egregious, others worthy. Certainly, it's fair to question whether Mr. Obama, fresh from boasting that "we passed the recovery plan free of earmarks," has abdicated the bully pulpit when it comes to this measure. But the amount of earmarked funds in these measures is down this year.

More noteworthy is the significant jump in domestic spending that is built into the annual baseline. Critics of the spending package say that the increase is 8 percent over last year's levels; for complicated bookkeeping reasons, the number as scored by the Congressional Budget Office is closer to 6 percent. Either way, this jump raises both short- and long-term concerns. In the short term, can government agencies effectively spend this much more on top of the huge stimulus package just passed? Congressional appropriators say that they scoured the spending to make certain such problems would not arise; still, the overall increase in domestic spending is a staggering 80 percent, according to the Republican staff of the House Budget Committee.

There's also a critique or two for Obama's overall budget priorities in the editorial. And, last, Obama ally E.J. Dionne spends half his column prefacing his critique with praise, but must finally admit there is a serious problem with the Obama administration's ability to face our most serious economic problem:

All of the administration's critics are being emboldened by its hesitancy in dealing with the banking question and its apparent fear of temporary bank nationalization. On this issue, the president genuinely is trying to steer a moderate course -- and moderation may be exactly the wrong recipe.

There is something deeply disturbing about the drip, drip, drip of billions of dollars into the banking system with no apparent impact. There is no transparency about how financial institutions are using the money. And there has been little clarity as to how the administration's actions will eventually lead to a recovery. Obama and his speechwriters need to seek inspiration, again, from FDR's fireside chats -- and explain what's happening to a petrified nation and world. His aides promise more of this, and they need to get moving...

Obama's calm and deliberative style is one of his greatest strengths. He doesn't want precipitous action in the midst of an economic collapse to come back to haunt us all. But sometimes excessive caution can be as dangerous as impetuousness. The president has no choice but to be bold. If there is one thing he should fear, it is fear itself.

On Obama's budget, Congressional leadership, and his handling of the banking crisis: Ouch, ouch, and ouch.