On election night six years ago, I wrote The Tragedy of the Bush Administration. In it, I despaired that:

“Once in a generation, the stars align for a political leader. There is this perfect moment – too often based on some enormous danger of long-lasting consequences for generations to come.

Once every half century, the perfect combination of leadership and threat, of challenge and response meet. The leader – imperfect, fallible, yet ready to rise to the occasion – grabs the brass ring.

Think Winston Churchill fighting the global threat of the Nazis, Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence, JFK’s dare to send a man to the Moon . . .”

The rest of that piece went on to lament how George W. Bush was granted that rare opportunity to grab the brass ring, to rise to the occasion — and failed miserably.

Here we sit, not half a century later as originally surmised, but a mere six years later. I once again find myself lamenting the opportunities wasted by a US President in response to a great cataclysm. In the case of President Obama, it was his response to the financial crisis. The opportunity for greatness presented itself, and was . . . ignored.

The President was swept into office on a wave of Anti-Bush sentiment. The stock market was in freefall, credit was frozen, the recession already 13 months old. As Rahm Emanuel said, “Never waste a good crisis.” A strong leader would have taken advantage of the moment, of the opportunity.

And what an opportunity it was: Over the prior 3 decades, the economy of the United States had been “financialized.” We became much more involved in ‘financial engineering’ than any other more productive engineering. Along with this financialization came increased revenue for the biggest banks and investment houses; greater profits, influence, and power. A wave of deregulation swept over the sector, freeing the banks from meddling oversight.

Thus, as the finance sector got larger and more important, it was paradoxically under ever less scrutiny, supervision, and regulation. With that new found freedom from oversight, the banks promptly blew themselves, and the global economy, to smithereens.

This was the environment in which the President came into office. What did he do in this scenario?

• He appointed two of the architects of the crisis to major White House economic positions: Lawrence Summers as CEA Chair, and Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.

• He made the enormous tactical error of focusing on Health Care Reform, while the banking crisis was still in full flower.

• He failed to marshall adequate resources to respond to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

The first item damned him to a mediocre economic team, one that failed to respond strongly to the banks that created the crisis. The second error earned him the enmity of the opposing party. The third error was political, and likely cost him the House, and possibly the Senate.

The great irony is that the man who ran on the campaign slogan of Change failed to deliver it in any meaningful way — at least, where the public wanted it — in getting the reckless runaway banks under control, and in stimulating the moribund, post-credit crisis economy.

I hasten to add, that from a political perspective, the President was a wimp. Had Al Gore been President from 2000-08 (and controlled Congress), the next GOP President would have flailed him for the recession and crisis bank relentlessly. Hell, the GOP still beats Jimmy Carter like a piñata. Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession. The public actually forget who authorized TARP, who bailed out Citibank, BofA, AIG, Fannie Mae, Bear Stearns, etc.

This amounted to political suicide.

Critics have debated Obama’s hands off approach to passing National Romney-Care, his giving up (?!) the winning issue of partial Bush tax cut extensions. I am perplexed as to why he would not force a full confirmation battle over the charming midwestern Elizabeth Warren as new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chair — Bnaks versus your grandma.

But as far as I am concerned, those are secondary political issues. To me, his presidency began its fatal downward spiral once he allowed Robert Rubin to determine his initial financial appointments. By passing over more pragmatic candidates not tied to banks and Wall Street, the president missed his opportunity to rise to greatness.

The opportunity existed to get the renegade banks under control — to reduce their leverage, their recklessness, and to get their hands out of the taxpayers pockets.

That opportunity was squandered, and Obama ended up as a defender of the banking status quo. It is where his presidency could have achieved lasting greatness, and instead was turned into just another elected official, who over promised and under delivered . . .

Category: Politics

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

163 Responses to “The Tragedy of the Obama Administration”

  1. Barry,

    I’ve been making the same argument, to deaf ears. Others believe there is still a chance for Obama. But we know better. He destroyed his legacy and worse, he hurt America by not taking decisive action.

    The problem is that the public does not understand that his major failing was appointing Geithner and Summers. I cannot understand how this intelligent leader was bamboozled by the likes of them.

    A tragedy for all of us.


  2. Mannwich says:

    Amen, Barry. The die was cast when he surrounded himself with the usual suspects who helped get us into this mess. The final nail was Feb/March ’09 when he formalized the decision to double down on the Bush bailouts.

  3. TakBak04 says:

    Good Comments, BR.

    It is a Tragedy. So much time wasted..with so much that needed to be done. With his huge staff it shouldn’t have been “impossible.” Yet it seemed from the beginning that those who would serve in his Administration had been “hand picked by someone” from the get go for a “smooth, seamless transition.”

    I don’t know if he was “suckered” or was “willing.” I guess the Historians will parse that one out…long after those who suffer from the deregulation since Reagan are gone. Who will be left to read? We have to hope the folks who “BROUGHT THE CHANGE” will be left.

    Hope….. Man…so much work to be done. But, at least we now see how it all works and so much has been revealed that perhaps we aren’t still living and accepting “Smoke and Mirrors.”

    Roll up our shirt sleeves and let’s get AT IT!

  4. trainreq says:

    A proper epitaph for this administration.

  5. drey says:

    Good analysis, Barry.

    Unlike some who would ascribe sinister or conspiratorial motives to Obama’s failings, I chalk them up to inexperience, ineptitude, and naivete. Good campaigners do not necessarily make good leaders. We’ve seen it time and time again. It’s a different skill set entirely.

    Start dealing in reality, BO – the Republicans do not LIKE you and never will. Nor will they work with you toward goals which will ultimately be seen as your accomplishments, not theirs. Get over it and start to govern. You may refer to the Clinton playbook….

  6. cpd says:

    Very good summary. It also shows the tremendous hold special interests have on the politicians. So much private money flowing through DC has completely corrupted politics. Take private money out of politics, have publicly financed elections and institute across the board term limits and then there is half a chance of getting elected representatives that will do the right thing.

    By the way, don’t forget Obama reappointed Bernanke. That was unforgivable. It’s time to put a non-economist in charge of the Fed (or better yet, just get rid of it).

  7. Heretic says:

    Sadly, I have to agree with most of this. But if Mr. Obama was going to get any kind of health care legislation, could he wait? The watered down thing we got just barely made it with Democratic majorities in both houses – and losing the house seemed likely even in Jan 2009. But to do health care you have to do the big parts all at once: Everyone has to be insured, no one can be denied coverage, and subsidies for those who can’t afford coverage. This may have been Obama’s only chance to get that sort of a bill through.

  8. DM RTA says:

    I am glad you wrote this post. History can be harsh, as in the endless GOP comments on the Carter years. Most times a President gets only one chance to make a tough decision in the moment based on his advising. But I have to wonder if President Obama got another chance to fix a really big problem, would he respond the same way? What if another big set of financial problems came along, how would a split Congress react to back the President’s attempts at strong medicine? Would he really be willing to take strong measures or would it be only more of the same? Two years ago I would have guessed wrong so I am not inclined to guess again…

  9. Mannwich says:

    @Heretic: That’s a fair point if he had thrown more weight into the economy and jobs situation it might have given him more political capital to then tackle the health care issue. Instead he used up his political capital on a health care bill that nobody seemed happy with or truly understood (which made people even unhappier). He got his priorities all mixed up.

  10. beaufou says:

    He had a great opportunity, he could have pushed the Republicans into a corner and kept at them relentlessly; but it was all “anger accomplishes nothing” “I get it”…no, you didn’t get it Barrack.

  11. RW says:

    I agree that going for national Romneycare was probably a mistake — it should have been a straight-up call for Medicare-for-everyone and damn the torpedoes — but the notion that passing health care reform was a serious tactical error is simply ill-informed: As Krugman notes here at http://tinyurl.com/39vaefj those who make this claim cannot name a single significant economic policy initiative that Obama could have successfully pursued otherwise. In fact those making this argument appear to think that economic policy is more a matter of ‘focus’ — AKA a matter of PR and superficial expressions of ‘caring’ (bleh!) — than it is a matter of actually doing something.

    But that fundamental error probably better describes the dysfunctional and declining state of our democracy than anything else: Appearance appears to be trumping actual form virtually everywhere as Reality-TV substitutes for reality and our nation dies the death of a thousand cuts in the process.

    Panem et circenses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81), “Bread and circuses:” There are too few citizens devoted to civic duty and too many devoted to being fed and entertained. That is the problem.

  12. Chief Tomahawk says:

    Where’s the blame for the media?!?

    They’ve reported this as the most expensive election at $4 billion, yet little has been examined about where the money is coming from and what the donors are hoping to get in return. Yet despite the enormous expense, candidates are still lining up to shell out the dough. There’s only one reason they’d do it voluntarily and that’s if there’s a bigger expected payday to come by selling votes down the road. So, dear media,

    How much are votes being sold for???

  13. Mannwich says:

    @Chief: The whores in the MSM are on that very money meat wagon as well. Hence, the obvious reasons to not mention it.

  14. druce says:

    Fatally cautious…one can understand keeping Geithner in the thick of the crisis, but not why he’s still there.

    But I have difficult believing enmity of the right would not have been the far worse if he had truly reformed Wall Street, washed out the zombie bank shareholders, put the sundry crooks in jail, enforced transparency, limited leverage, put in investor and borrower protection with teeth, etc., etc.

  15. jcmcn5 says:

    I agree with most of what you wrote except the part about not flailing the previous admin. Are you kidding? Hardly a week went by without Obama saying something to the effect that he’d inherited a mess. It’s true, he did. But let’s not pretend he didn’t use that to his advantage when he could.

    The fatal error was not focusing on job creation immediately, instead of wasting time and capital ramming a HCare bill down the throats of everyone and using bribery and pork to get it done. If he’d focused on creating jobs — immediate, private sector jobs (not teachers, not gov’t heathcare workers) he’d have coasted through this election with an even larger majority. With that blunder, he revealed himself as the liberal idealogue he pretended not to be throughout the whole campaign of 2008.

    As for his lack of execution — Maybe next time the Dems will hold out as savior someone who has done a little more with his life than be a community organizer. Really! What on earth did you expect from this guy? This is not about McCain or even Republicans. This is about about acting like a bunch of high school girls when some hot guy walks by, even though the hot guy is a shallow narcissist.

    Hell, Hilary would have been a better choice. At least she had balls.

  16. Robespierre says:

    A good read of “The Prince” could have saved him but nobody reads history anymore.

  17. lalaland says:

    I think your view is myopic.

    A: Government intervention in business is the 3rd rail in America for a very good reason – you don’t want it to happen because it’s too prone to corruption, pure and simple. I think you fail to appreciate the justified cautiousness of his approach. We stepped in and took over several companies, and threatened the livelihoods of many more. I think the calls for more action on the administration’s part should consider how that sets precedent, and how that precedent could be abused in the future. He’s already called a socialist just for completing what Bush began (gm and chrysler, aig, fannie and freddie, etc.)

    B: They didn’t have the votes. Kennedy died. Byrd died. You fail to appreciate the opposition. Democrats simply could not steamroll Republican opposition, pure and simple. Mitch McConnell has been vindicated as a tactician this very evening.

    Did we have a substantive debate on financial regulations? No. Did we have a substantive debate on Health Care Reform? No. Was this because Obama didn’t want a conversation, to find the best ideas? I don’t believe that for a minute. If you are upset with what you got from Finreg, blame the opposition. If you are pissed at the healthcare bill you got, blame your representative who cast it as an ‘all or nothing’ proposition instead of a process they are supposed to engage in. We’ll see how these republican victories stick when after 2 years they have nothing to show for it. After all, they didn’t run on doing anything so I doubt they will disappoint.

  18. Mannwich says:

    RW: So he couldn’t have pursued a more robust (and effective) fiscal stimulus and attention to the economy and the creation of actual jobs? There were plenty of areas here (hello decaying, embarrassing infrastructure everywhere?) where he could have been much bolder. Instead he focused on ramming through a bad health care bill. That’s been his hallmark from Day 1, confusing activity with accomplishment. His style of leadership might have worked fine in the ’90′s, but not in a time of crisis where bold leadership is required.

  19. Mbuna says:

    How much of a deal with the devil did Obama make to get elected in the first place hmm? Was it in fact the big corporations that put him over the top, despite what common knowledge dictated back then? Maybe he was already captured by the banks before he even got elected. Perhaps the electorate is already irrelevant, passe, because the candidates of both major parties are already captured by their corporate masters before they get elected. The electorate loses no matter who wins.

  20. huxrules says:

    There was a good story on All Things Considered today about how Clinton didn’t come into his presidency till he lost the congress in ’94. We will see what Obama does tomorrow. I hope he finally comes out swinging.

  21. paull says:

    Unfair and hyperbolic. Obama is working within the realm of the possible and has done good things; at a minimum, he hasn’t done disastrous things, like his predecessor. It’s the senate’s rules that need to be changed.

  22. jcmcn5 says:

    huxrules — Barack Obama is no Bill Clinton. Clinton may have been a scoundrel and sexual predator, but he was a master politician who had already tasted political defeat twice before. Obama has never faced any such test. He will wilt.

    But take heart. He may very well be saved by the incompetence of his political opponents.

  23. limaur says:

    A muslim disguised as a christian, a communist pretending to be a liberal, a democrat hoping for bipartisan
    cooperation to get the country moving again. You , the people of the U.S., wanted the man to solve all your economic problems ,and with dispatch,while everybody bitched and complained and obstructed his every step. I do most sincerely hope that your U.S. will go to hell, for its arrogance, for its stupidity , for its bigotry and for being .. oh.. so fatuous.

  24. Jackrabbit says:

    Don’t forget renominating “Subprime is contained” Bernanke.

    And any notion that Obama will change in any REAL way (he might make some show of it) should be dispelled by his performance on the Daily Show where he praised Summers for a “heck of a job” and tried to minimize the costs of bailing out the banks.

    I have been skeptical of the line that Obama is owned by the banks but his Daily Show performance may have finally convinced me.

  25. Mannwich says:

    LOL limaur. Halloween was Sunday night.

  26. gregh says:

    Presidents are figureheads not experts. Most politicians don’t know economics or finance, apparently most economists and finance people obviously don’t know economics.

    If you were president and were suddenly handed some war – 9/11 – in addition to hundreds of other major non-financial you’d probably be equally lost and having to put your trust into someone elses hands. He chose wrongly, but did he have time to study intracies and seriously vet those he’d trust to vet his potential choices? Would you have the time the study war, nation-building, anti-terrorism, etc in order to make what you felt to be the perfect decision while juggling 100 other balls? You’d probably have to trust the word of close folks on the hill… who would all make the same bad decisions. Barry you would have made great decisions regarding our financial troubles but you’d probably make blind ones regarding some very different crisis that isn’t your regular schtick.

  27. Mannwich says:

    I think most of us simply wanted plain old-fashioned bold, principled leadership. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is now.

  28. RW says:

    No argument Mannwich but that’s not the game the (feckless and useless) pundits have been playing: The cry that Obama should have been doing X or Y is not accompanied by a concrete example of am economic policy he could have actually proposed, passed through the Republican blockade, and successfully pursued.

    The victory of Republican candidates today is more a message of voter confusion and despair than a message of actual policy direction.

    The real “tragedy of the Obama administration” is less in its policies than in its message: But you already knew that didn’t you.

  29. FrankInTheFalls says:

    Very good analysis. But I cannot disagree more with this: “Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession”

    You have got to be kidding me. All we have heard for the past ten months is, “we were handed this economy, it will take a long time to undo the past eight years, blah blah blah” It even went on during Obama’s recent stumping trip.

    Yeah, we KNOW you were handed a pile of garbage, so tell us when you will do something to clean it up.

  30. call me ahab says:

    Clinton didn’t come into his presidency till he lost the congress in ’94. We will see what Obama does tomorrow. I hope he finally comes out swinging.

    not that you’re a dumb ass- but Clinton in 1994-

    moved to the right (and therefore did not come out swinging)- and worked with the Republican’s on Republican initiatives after the congressional defeat-

    but let’s hope Obama comes out swinging- whatever that means

  31. Mannwich says:

    Agreed RW. People on Main Street are flailing desperately in this country. Looking for an answer. Any answer. The next two years should be interesting to say the least. Pull up a chair, get some popcorn. The circus is not only in town, it just doubled.

  32. call me ahab says:

    I do most sincerely hope that your U.S. will go to hell, for its arrogance, for its stupidity , for its bigotry and for being .. oh.. so fatuous.

    blow me douche bag

  33. Mannwich says:

    @ahab: This GOP to date has had NO interest whatsoever in “working with Obama”. Absolutely none. Their only interest has been “making him a one-term president”, no matter the consequences to the country. The poetic justice now is they’ll either be totally exposed (assuming anyone is paying attention, of course) or will have to work with him now.

  34. [...] (Obama, Not Ritholtz) Posted by Paul Vigna on November 02, 2010 Washington Barry Ritholtz nails the problem with the Obama administration: The great irony is that the man who ran on the campaign slogan of Change failed to deliver it in [...]

  35. ger says:

    I disagree BR. I don’t think the average Joe cares too much about the banks and the healthcare bill hasn’t directly impacted many Americans yet. Dems are losing this election because nothing feels stable yet. There are a lot of people without jobs and there are even more people worried that their job are not secure. People are freaking out about their home values and their retirement savings. People hate uncertainty – and they are punishing the people that are in power and are supposed to provide stability, a path out of this.

  36. DM RTA says:

    RW: “As Krugman notes here at http://tinyurl.com/39vaefj those who make this claim cannot name a single significant economic policy initiative that Obama could have successfully pursued otherwise. In fact those making this argument appear to think that economic policy is more a matter of ‘focus’ — AKA a matter of PR and superficial expressions of ‘caring’ (bleh!) — than it is a matter of actually doing something.”

    How about if the President had taken the back half of the stimulus bill spending and worked it tirelessly to make sure that there was more than 1100 pages of bill left over when it was spent? How about if instead of making comments like there are no shelf ready infrastructure projects making sure that the most stimulative ideas were being readied. How about glorifying the details and making them look like they were worked on by the people who know better than anyone else?…and then selling it as being worth it.

  37. call me ahab says:


    Clinton went to the GOP after the congressional defeat-

    not the other way around-

    also- glad to see everyone on this blog lay down like a bunch of little bitches after the 10:11 comment above-

    I guess I’ll see you in hell manny

  38. Matt P. says:

    All Presidents are not dealt the same hand. Obama was set up perfectly and has so far failed miserably. He came in with tremendous good will and with a HUGE advantage in Congress. They had more votes than any GOP President in the last 90 years or so. Crazy advantage for getting your legislation done with hardly a GOP vote required. Also, he came in after the blow up of the economy. No one blames him for the economy, they blame him for setting the wrong expectations on the recovery.

  39. maximo says:

    It’s sad to admit but you’re absolutely right, Barry. Boy, this is a Fukuyama moment for America and the joke is on us.

  40. Mannwich says:

    LOL ahab. I’m still here.

  41. JimRino says:

    “But I have difficult believing enmity of the right would not have been the far worse if he had truly reformed Wall Street, washed out the zombie bank shareholders, put the sundry crooks in jail, enforced transparency, limited leverage, put in investor and borrower protection with teeth, etc., etc.”

    To do any of these, he’d have to find an effective means of dealing with the right wing Fox Professional Liars. As long as you have One Network Lying and Smearing Every Single Day you won’t get anywhere near optimal policy passed. I guess I’m surprised just how deep racist feelings run on the right. They don’t give a Damn about this Country as long as they can Smear a President.

  42. Lariat1 says:

    I’m disappointed in Obama and ashamed of the Republican strategy of just NO to everything. Statesmanship is dead and it is only going to get worse. I just came back from 5:15 am to 9:40 pm election working. It was sad, all the people coming in literally talking about the Revolution with the Tea Party and how everything will be fixed now. This was seriously felt and voiced by a lot of people. My God what is happening to this country.

  43. tawm says:

    What did you expect from a guy who has led a privileged life, somehow rose up through the Chicago political machine, and never held a job in the private sector? What understanding could he have about our economy and financial system? He knows how to campaign, but…..

  44. JimRino says:

    I now think the ONLY way you can deal with Wall Street is to elect 100 Liberals to the Senate. The only way the Republican party could do more rear kissing of Wall Street would be to become gay.

  45. Pantmaker says:

    Repubs will now be aboard with the Dems for the second phase of the sinking of the ship. The final (needed) washout of the markets and the economy will have taken place on everyone’s watch. It’s almost poetic.

  46. bluesky says:


    The criticisms and observations are valid, but its a little early to play historian. Its almost halftime, and the Republicans just scored two quick TDs to take the lead 14-10.

    You cannot just ignore the facts that:

    (1) Obama campaigned strongly on passing health care reform, and the bill that was passed will close the uninsured gap and address some of the real long term problems in health care. He did what he promised he would do during the campaign, that should never be held against a politician.

    (2) He helped pass a much tougher financial reform bill that I expected, esp. WRT consumer protection. I know the TBTF problem was not addressed, but still…

    Those were real victories for which he should get credit.

    I wonder whether the White House’s overoptimistic projections on the economy, beliefs that the economy would turn around more quickly than it will, led it to believe that it could focus on Health Care.

    People demonize Geitner and Summers, but Cristina Romer (overoptimistic projections) and Bernanke (unfounded worries about inflation prevented earlier QEII) are as to blame for this midterm massacre.

    If the White House knew 18 months ago that the economy would be where it was today, it was suicide not to throw the bankers over the side…instead w/ Geitner and Summers the WH didn’t have it in it to really attack Wall Street politically in a way that would appease the masses.

  47. Thor says:

    Jesus Christ Ahab, put your dick back in your pants already.

  48. JasRas says:

    The best opportunity wasted by a failure to grasp the situation and properly adjust… And now we will all pay regardless of party, place, demographic… Good luck to all.

  49. Mannwich says:

    @Jim: But who cares if the “right would have been far worse”. “W”, whom I disagreed with on mostly everything was able to ram through nearly his entire agenda (except privatizing SS) with a far slimmer majority because he didn’t give a rat’s ass what the Dems or Dem voters thought. Use the bully pulpit and lead with conviction and principle, and the people will usually follow. If that doesn’t work, then so be it. Losing while being conviction-less and unprincipled is much worse. The public, rightly or wrongly, admires bold leadership and people who lead with conviction and principle. The O man, and his constant giving away the house at every turn to an enemy that wanted nothing more than to destroy him and his presidency, showed neither throughout the last two years.

  50. jeg3 says:

    Great post BR, on the mark.

    Obama is not a liberal ideologue, he is exactly like Bush II, A Neoliberal Corporatist.
    Obama followed the same failed Bush II policies and started his own with corporatized healthcare.
    Mainstreet America elects Austerians into office expecting the opposite, and BR is right in that the best
    you can do is to figure out how to use it to your advantage (and/or not to your disadvantage).

    Godspeed America

  51. bluesky says:

    call me ahab,

    When I step around the poor raving drunk on my way to work, its not laying down like a little bitch..

    Why give limaur’s ravings the time of day? he’s just pulling your chain.

  52. Niskyboy says:

    The real tragedy isn’t that we have a President who’s completely out of his depth and wimpy to boot, it’s that we have a President who doesn’t seem to like us very much. He called us enemies just the other day. He says that because we’re scared, we’re stupid. He said Boston police acted “stupidly” when they investigated his friend, who they thought was breaking into a house. Right now he’s taking 3,000 people to India to do something or other at a monumental cost — hey, it’s not his dime, what’s he care.

    I couldn’t wait to vote against this guy’s policies today. Here’s a news flash Obama: Your sh*t does, in fact, stink.

  53. dss says:

    “confusing activity with accomplishment.”

    Well said, Manny. With the ridiculous health care bill that was allowed to pass (2014 if you can stay alive that long) he needed to go down swinging, fighting for what was right rather than what the insurance companies bought. At least while the citizenry was being screwed they could say that someone fought for the right to have health care rather than the privilege that it is today.

    Just like allowing the banksters to carry on with their ill gotten gains, the insurance and drug companies are very pleased to have Obama as president.

    These times called for a fighter, the change agent he promised instead of this sad excuse for a leader. Oh sure, his administration points to the bills that were “allowed” to pass, the ones that would have passed with any Democratic president, as proof of his efficacy, they were bills he didn’t fight very hard to get passed.

    Now two more years of gridlock. two more years of pretending that Republican policies were not what drove this economy off the cliff. 2012? Who cares.

    People are angry because they are tired of being sold down the river by both all political parties.

  54. Stranded_in_CA says:

    If any president had economic advisers like Rubin(whom Obama had since he was senator), they too would have made the same rotten decisions in regards to Wall Street. Heck his entire roster of economic advisers read like a list of Wall Street insiders and tools.

    You won’t get intelligent nor honest information from such a sorry lot period.

  55. dss says:

    Hey, Ahab!

    I’m liking you more and more!

  56. FrancoisT says:

    Now that the House will be controlled by the Reichpubliscums, thou shall look at the last two years as a model of political civility and good manners.

    It’ll be unbelievably ugly in Washington DC until November 2012. Just take a look at the crop of Tea Partiers, mobster-tied ex-attorneys, total fuckheads, anti-science, worshipers of the folksy ignorance drinking at the fountain of power, ready to paralyze the country if their “requirements” are not met.

    It’s gonna hurt; BTW, pray we don’t get a REAL crisis until the next election.

  57. dss says:


    What Ahab says! Double that.

  58. jdennings says:

    Jeeeezzzzus … Are there any commenters here besides biased ditto heads basking in their daily dose of confirmation ?

    Barry: you make good points, but of all people you are not at your best here when it comes to seeing … the big picture … on this one. (Pun actually not originally intended). With respect to time, for one thing, and lack of perspective. And with respect to your entire point revolving on Romney care and Rubin et. al.

    Did Obama mess up a few things? Sure. But just because he failed, in your eyes, to take on the banks and Wall street fully does not bring him to the same level of Bush nor a failed president.
    I think you are way too … emotional … for lack of a better word, about Rubin and Co. (BTW, I tend to be the same, same direction as you) and the importance of the banks and Wall Street. Quite understandable obviously given what you do for a living. But there is Wall Street, there are banks, and then there is the economy. You know this as well if not better than most.

    So let’s get beyond meager Romney care . What did you expect? That the big bad banksters would get what they deserved? Let’s assume Obama had gotten an A+ in your view with respect to that issue. Then what? All would be good then? Economy roaring, S&P 1500, and Obama on par with Churchill? You know that no matter what this could never happen. The economy would still suck, and *that* is numero uno on voters mind and the psychology of this country. (And at S&P1500 I bet you’d be way way short )

    Also, not a word on the Wars, the radical departures from the sterile Bush approach to international relations, etc …

    For another view of the whole thing and maybe a bit of balance, take a look at this:

    Obama will triumph and so will America,

    (I don’t subscribe to that view either, as it is just as extreme as yours, but it does make some good points about expectations for one thing.)

    Oh, one last thing … Compare Obama’s current approval ratings of 48%, vs. Clinton and Reagan of 42% at the same relative time … (Gallup poll, Oct 6).

    Time perspective.

    We’ll see …

  59. plantseeds says:

    jimrino blaming fox..that’s a tired argument buddy..got anything else?
    limaur… me thinks you too are american and just another crybaby that’s FOS but thanks for comming.

    Otherwise – I would say that it’s not over yet for Obama because at worst (or some might say at best) he still has two years left but he burned his bridges already. Tomorrow he’ll call for an end to partisanship games like he’s never played them, further erroding his credibility.

    I love the ” what is happening to this country” comments BTW …keep ‘em comming, this is great.
    The only thing missing now is the democrat ” run an hide!!” from what’s comming which is no so different from two years ago when it was the republican “hunker down and buy guns!!” LOL!

  60. Mannwich says:

    I have to say, I’m embarrassed to have voted all these years for such a spineless, wimpy party. Enough already with the “other party is mean” meme. When you get the kind of majorities the Dems had, that shit just doesn’t fly. LEAD, please.


  61. call me ahab says:

    It’ll be unbelievably ugly in Washington DC until November 2012.

    so what’s going to happen then that’s so fan-fucking-tastic? Obviously you know the future- and I guess fuckheads and folksy people are going to get what’s coming to them

  62. JT23456 says:

    Hey, it’s all well & good to have 20-20 hindsight and skewer the invalids – let’s face it – I should have been a lot smarter when I retired in 2001 and moved my money as well as our bodies offshore. Smart me would have been 2x as smart to move the $ to CH as we built a house in MX and moved here. At least we have the 50′ sailboat and the rum and we can go and spend 3-4 months in Tahiti while the corporate “avatars” duke it out over the bones and skin and the scabs that are left of the US corpse. Politicians are avatars – trust me.

  63. plantseeds says:

    ” thou shall look at the last two years as a model of political civility and good manners.”

    from who?

  64. Malachi says:

    It’s ugly in here today. Best to stay outside with BR’s post and consider that on it’s own.

  65. JimRino says:

    What do you expect the “Republicans” are going to do?
    They’re going to bankrupt you and your assets, take away your healthcare, ship your job overseas, and stick a flag up your ???. Then what are you going to do?

    But, you’re taxes will be lower.
    You just gave the country away to the Wall Street Mafia.

  66. Jojo says:

    What a flame out! So much hope wasted and squandered.

    Obama seemed to have so much poise and self-confidence coming into office. He was on the crest of a wave. He had a beautiful wife and two cute children. Thoughts of JFK and Camelot were in the minds of many.

    But Obama stumbled from the beginning, failing to show any real sense of urgency. Everything he did was slow and methodical, one step at a time. He seems unable to express real empathy or understanding in any situation due to his inability to emote effectively. He is always cool and collected. And yes, he does come across as a wimp, afraid to or emotionally unable to stand up to and confront the Republican opposition front and center.

    In these troubled times, we wanted and needed BOLD leadership. But Obama was and has been unable to rise to any opportunity. He simply does not have the personality or experience to be a real leader.

    You can’t change the color of the stripes on a zebra. The Dems should be searching for a new presidential candidate for 2012. Obama should not run for a 2nd term.

  67. AGORACOM says:

    Americans haven’t been happy with the health care system for decades.

    BUT they were really mad about Wall Street / Bank fleecing right now.

    He should have tackled Wall St first and hard.

    It would have inspired citizens that desperately needed a hero.

    He could have then ridden that wave into any reasonable legislation he wanted.

    Obama blew it. I didn’t want him to. I’m a Conservative from Canada – but hoped that someone would stop the Wall Street train wreck.

    It would have been nice to watch a President act Presidential.

    Le Sigh.

    George … The Greek … From Canada

  68. plantseeds says:

    JimRino – you’re dizzy from the political tail chase. there is no difference between the two. you are a victim of the biggest scam in the history of the USA. they all belong to the same country clubs and stay on the same floor of the hotel. they all fly the private jet. republicans and democrats are one in the same. i don’t rely on them and I am in charge of my own health and therefore health care. they can’t take my job…I ‘ll leave the flag comment alone. the lower my taxes the better. the government is not the solution to anything. the sooner you learn that the better. keep playing the blame game if you choose but I am not so easily distracted.

  69. call me ahab says:

    They’re going to bankrupt you and your assets, take away your healthcare, ship your job overseas, and stick a flag up your ???. Then what are you going to do?

    take away my healthcare that I pay for myself?

    damn Republicans

  70. Mannwich says:

    Hey plantseeds – what about those with a pre-existing condition through no fault of their own, except maybe faulty DNA? Should the plan be either “our own healthcare” or food and shelter? And that’s assuming anyone would even cover you with a pre-existing condition. What say ye?

  71. wunsacon says:

    Barry, great post. (I.e., I feel the same way.)

  72. covel says:

    Why do we Americans continually have hope that a government filled with losers can do anything? Right or left, the people that go there are not our best or brightest. They are the ones who groove living at Hollywood for ugly people. Power and fame are their motives. Their skills? Their abilities? Come on.

  73. wunsacon says:


    I’d be *happy* if I thought there were enough Karl Denninger remnants in the “tea party” that something might actually happen on the finance front. But, I see *mostly* neocon retreads. I don’t see why you would take such offense to Francois’s comment…

  74. JimRino says:

    I guess Plantseeds and ahab explain the Republican victory.
    You don’t know what you’re talking about.
    How did you fall into this blog.
    Ritholtz has discussed in depth the causes of the Wall Street Crash.
    And if you watched CSpan you’d have seen and heard what the Democrats were really proposing.
    And you would have seen Republicans fighting tooth and nail every reform of the Wall Street Fraud Machine.

    Like Mannwich said: Google: Rescission Healthcare
    Read this for example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rescission
    Your Insurance Contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

    Fox News Conned you good.

  75. Mannwich says:

    @wunsy: Retards or retreads? LOL. Sorry…..

  76. Darkness says:

    So, this should be interesting. BoA goes bankrupt and then what? The house is no way bailing them out. Has the populace become inured enough to avoid a generalized bank run?

    The republicans sure are acting like teens being given a car with a full tank of gas. Surprise…

  77. Greg0658 says:

    I’ll catch up on the 1/2 remaining coments later .. from my FB earlier to a J6P friend

    1. like the puppet in the WH can break from the strings and grab his bazooka and go to town & country busting ___ umm .. I’m at a loss for ….
    Right Now by Chris Gaines aka Garth Brooks

    2. Greg!——WHAT?

    3. :-) what :-| ok I’ll write a book .. the White House is one office building in the USA (thats United States of America) he has control of the military as long as they don’t do a coupdetta on him .. we have elections for that .. so thats the .. power of government .. plus much more like redistribution of taxes on stuff of each side R or D sees as the focus … the other part of all that is USA .. is the USA its people ? or its business ? .. and business really does control it all doesn’t it .. and can pull a coupdetta on its puppet president if it wishes

    new & now here on TBP … best wishes all .. to our newly elected controllers / same … voters don’t be surprised if the elected go for the gusto while they can .. for I expect you would in their position .. ie: knowing they be gone in in 4 to 6

  78. call me ahab says:

    Covel nails it!


    it was a partisan comment through and through-

    but if you agree with the sentiments- then I guess it is hard to see it as what it is

  79. plantseeds says:

    my response was to taking away MY healthcare which those dastardly republicans are going to try and do so says jimrino. don’t get me wrong, i’m for social programs too whatever the case. i think it starts and ends at the community level though. disabled, dependent on others, down on your luck, etc. i’ve needed help and i lend a hand when i can too. mr. rino isn’t talking about that though. he’s all about the fight. it’s like a sox fan and a yankees fan fighting it out in the parking lot when the athletes are watching from the top floor of the hotel laughing and drinking Cristal. i don’t agree with him so i’m a republican, he even knows how i voted.

  80. wunsacon says:


    Tom Delay, Phil Gramm, Bush/Cheney, Rumsfeld, Hank Paulson, Terri Schaivo, and pro-organized-religion legislation from DC are not distant memories. Obama never stopped digging the hole we’re in. But, he did slow down some. I *do* think the “pace of shoveling” increases again. ;-)

  81. wunsacon says:

    Besides the Grayson loss, this news:


    suggests voters are incapable of changing direction on a losing strategy until we bankrupt ourselves.

    (So, when Churchill said us Americans always do the right thing after we try everything else, he wasn’t freaking kidding!)

  82. dss says:


    Agreed. Now Obama won’t have to make excuses for the gridlock.

  83. Mannwich says:

    @dss: Which is why I think deep down Obama is actually happy about this outcome. It takes some of the heat off of him and puts some of it on the GOP.

  84. dss says:

    Yes, that will be one of the outcomes that will give him the most cover.

  85. Ambiance says:

    I agree with a lot of the sentiment in the original post, however I think it extends far beyond just financial regulation. Obama came in on a platform of change and had just about everything in place to get a good amount of it done. However I think the same optimistic and affable nature that made him so popular ultimately served to make him a great facilitator of the various entrenched interests (political and economic) that permeate D.C. As BR pointed out immediately with the economic crisis he started playing ball with many of the same people who brought about this crisis or facilitated the banking industry throughout it. Reregulation took a back seat and the bill we finally ended up getting was penned by two politicians who were culpable to parts of the crisis in their own right.

    Healthcare reform was perhaps the best example of a bill not about fundamentally changing anything but setting up some rough goals and leaving the existing system fundamentally unchanged. I really think that it was also a huge fumble on Obama’s part. Regardless if you’re for a market based approach, a single payer system or a public option this bill pretty much failed to fundamentally change anything about how healthcare is structured and funded in this country. How hard would it have been to actually put in malpractice reform to eliminate a Republican talking point. I don’t believe there was an earnest effort to actually strip the health insurance companies of their anti trust exemptions, HR 4626 was in the news for a few days, passed the house and promptly died in the senate without much of a challenge. Likewise I think many of the Medicare spending cuts and potential efficiency improvements will likely be short term or temporary funding improvements at best. There’s some good things in the bill when it comes to expanding coverage and reforming some more unsavory industry practices, but there’s very little when it comes to tangible cost controls in the bill. Some of the anger has been quelled and the can has been kicked down the road for a few more years in the typical Washington fashion. I do feel he mostly stuck to his campaign platform in regards to what he planned to do with regards to health care though.

    I’d also add that I don’t believe we’ve taken a fundamentally different approach to the war in Afghanistan at this point either, which was something I was hoping to see.

    Overall I like the President and I’m still more comfortable with having voted for him over McCain, but it’s very hard to look at the situation and say Obama hasn’t ensured the future survival of many of the same special interests he campaigned against. Given how the elections are going so far tonight, unless he’s willing to put up one well of a fight and finally take a more confrontational role then I don’t think he has much to look forward to other than defending his office and complete gridlock. As disappointed as I am with Obama’s direction, the GOP is pretty much after his head and nothing else at this point (and openly admits it). I know I’m thoroughly disgusted with the fact that the partisan quest to capture or maintain political territory has largely overshadowed the needs of the citizenry of this country.

  86. Greg0658 says:

    there is the Fascist way and the Socialist way .. of going forward .. one is just plain easier .. tear or build

    “pay for myself” .. No thats not really how capitalism works is it? .. more correct = retain for thyself from thy neighbor

  87. dss says:

    As Thor says: Let the impeachment proceedings begin!

  88. LostinATX says:

    @limaur get a grip.

    @Obama, this is your chance to re-load, re-aim and carry out some of the promises you made. For the sake of the nation, I hope you’ve got the courage and fight in you to do it. If not, then shame on you. Barry’s three big misses (as quoted below) are spot on. Go fix ‘em.

    This was the environment in which the President came into office. What did he do in this scenario?

    • He appointed two of the architects of the crisis to major White House economic positions: Lawrence Summers as CEA Chair, and Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary.

    • He made the enormous tactical error of focusing on Health Care Reform, while the banking crisis was still in full flower.

    • He failed to marshall adequate resources to respond to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

    The first item damned him to a mediocre economic team, one that failed to respond strongly to the banks that created the crisis. The second error earned him the enmity of the opposing party. The third error was political, and likely cost him the House, and possibly the Senate.

  89. lambert says:

    Can we primary Obama now?

  90. Permabear says:

    I agree with some of BR’s assessment. I agree that Summers and Geithner were mistaken appointments. But on the economic front Obama had the choice of to stimulate or not to stimulate. He chose the traditional Keynesian remedy which consensus economists agreed was the right approach. And it actually worked reasonably well turning an economy in negative 6 percent GDP and negative 600,000 jobs per month into positive GDP and positive private job growth. Yes more stimulus could have made a bigger difference but for how long. After the massive credit boom, the other side of the mountain is the credit bust, housing bust and extended deleveraging. The choice is longterm stagnation like Japan or economic depression via U.S. in the 1930s. Personally I think the 30s scenario would get it over with quicker. The path we’ve chosen is going to turn into extended pain with an unknown outcome.

    As for healthcare, expanding health care and mandating insurance was a good thing on balance. It was a choice between Massachusetts’ model where they have 5 percent uninsured and Texas’ model where they have 26 percent uninsured. I’ll go with Massachusetts every day.

  91. MikeG says:

    The second error earned him the enmity of the opposing party.

    Obama had the enmity of the Confederate Teabag Party from the day he won the election.

    He failed to marshall adequate resources to respond to the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.

    True, but the voters’ response is to re-elect those who ran the economy into the ditch with cronyist nonregulation and wilfully-inadequate oversight, screamed mightily against even the inadequate level of stimulus and obstructed him every step of the way. Fail.

  92. Heretic says:

    @Mannwich “When you get the kind of majorities the Dems had …”

    Sadly, a majority, even a big one, isn’t good enough anymore:

    “… the number of bills on which a cloture motion had to be filed to receive a vote has skyrocketed in the past few decades, and especially in the past two Congresses; …”

    Obama could at least try to lead, though, and make it clear where the obstruction is when the GOP filibusters.
    Kind of an interesting system we have, where, at least in theory, 41 senators representing only about 10% of the population can block most legislation.

  93. DuchessGateau says:

    Barry’s summary says it all. Politicians would not be in office long if they tried to change the system which put them there and which can replace them at any time.

    I fail to see any mistakes in policy. What policy? It’s just looting. Nobody is misguided. They’re too busy shoveling money out of the treasury and loading us up with debt. A democratic Congress handed $13 trillion to Paulson to give to Wall St and European banks, to “save the system.” The other bailouts were back door transfers to Wall St.

    The healthcare “reform” was a gigantic gift to insurance companies. Healthcare already cost 17% of GDP. Now that will increase. Congress “gave” their power of the purse to Paulson, then Geithner. That’s astonishing, and cannot be legal. Elected officials like Alan Grayson, Brad Sherman, and Ron Paul are powerless to get the Fed to answer questions (like who got the trillions). Appointees like Geithner have outrageous power as long as they keep the money flowing to select banks.

    I have little patience for parsing Obama’s economic “errors” (unless it’s BR) as if there was a flawed strategy. What strategy? He and Congress have simply been enacting the will of Wall St., the healthcare industry, and the defense industry. Just like Bush.

    This week the political pundit Pat Buchanan pointed out that neither party has a jobs plan. Neither party even bothers with “politics as usual” anymore, like addressing the most important concerns of their constituents.

    Sorry to be so negative, but the glimmers are so tiny. Maybe Alan Grayson will have more time for television now.

  94. John says:


    “Kind of an interesting system we have, where, at least in theory, 41 senators representing only about 10% of the population can block most legislation.”

    The political system of the United States was purposely established so that what we call gridlock is NORMAL. Only the most important legislation that most could basically agree upon could be passed. The purpose was to prevent government from being strong enough to violate the rights of individuals. The federal government was never intended to solve all of society’s problems.

    The intention was always that “a majority, even a big one, isn’t good enough” to pass laws. Therefore it is not “sadly” that this is the case.

  95. gringo says:

    Well said BR

  96. Heretic says:

    It certainly can be said that the US political system was designed to prevent hasty legislation with a simple majority, and that is a good thing. The structure of the senate, for instance, already does that, without the filibuster. But do we really want a permanently gridlocked government? Must we have a Pearl Harbor or a Great Depression in order to act? One of the points of Barry’s post was the failure of Obama, and Bush before him, to respond to a great cataclysm. This is a perfectly valid criticism, but what use is presidential action against a congress that cannot move?

  97. Expat says:

    Obama’s only achievement is being the first black president.

    Originally, he was credited with being the first non-GW Bush president, but subsequently this was disproved. I would now not be surprised to discover that he isn’t even black!

    Can the Nobel committee revoke a prize? or at least commit seppuku to atone for their sin?