Is this a sign of the times? Liberal columnist Eleanor Clift has joined her ideological colleagues, Mika Brzezinski and Paul Krugman, in criticizing President Barack Obama recently. What set Clift off was Obama's evasiveness in revealing whether he approved or knew in advance the AIG bonuses provided by his stimulus bill. Clift takes aim at both Obama and Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, in her latest Newsweek column:
Who would have thought 55 days into this administration we would be asking the question, what did he know and when did he know it? Word that a provision in the stimulus bill gave the green light for AIG to hand out bonuses using taxpayer money sent the media bloodhounds hot on the trail of whoever is the culprit. For a time, it looked like Senate Banking chairman Chris Dodd would take the fall, but after 24 hours of twisting in the wind, Dodd said the change that exempted past agreements to pay bonuses was made at the request of the administration.
President Obama likes to remind voters that he inherited a mess, and that's true, but this one is of his own making. And until he comes up with a satisfactory explanation of who did what when, and why, his credibility will suffer. Forty-eight hours ago, I didn't think Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was in trouble, but if the transaction with Dodd turns out to have Geithner's fingerprints on it, his job could be in jeopardy. The deadly chain of events may have started innocently enough, with Treasury Department lawyers raising questions about the government retroactively curtailing private-sector contracts, but did Dodd, who authored the restrictive language, capitulate to some Treasury flunky, or did someone more senior lean on him?
Hmmm.... Did a Treasury Department flunky or someone higher up convince Dodd to take out the AIG bonus restrictions out of the bill? So far Dodd won't tell but I think Eleanor has already figured out the answer. In case you think Eleanor has gone over to the "dark side" you would be wrong. She worries that this AIG fiasco could hurt the Democrats:
Whomever it was, it's fair to say they did not recognize the time bomb they were setting in motion. Obama hates what he calls "process stories," but they are a staple of Washington reporting, and the backstory of this first major Obama blunder has consequences. First, it undermines the president's credibility with his own party on Capitol Hill. Democrats voted almost unanimously for the stimulus package and now Republicans have a weapon to use against them with this Treasury-inspired provision that benefits AIG. Second, the controversy undermines the trust that the American people have in government at a time when it is spending billions upon billions. Obama promises transparency, but the layers of bureaucratic double-talk look like business as usual. Geithner—formerly with the New York Federal Reserve Bank—is schooled in secrecy and, when he does speak, the kindest thing to say is that he's badly in need of media training.
Ironically, Clift then favorably cites Democrat pollster Stanley Greenberg who claims that Obama must get it right it on the economy or face the consequences at the polls in future elections. The problem with citing Greenberg is that he might be the cause of another big Democrat disaster. He has food giant Monsanto as a client and his wife, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, is the sponsor of HR 875, The Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009, which under the guise of "food safety" would have the effect of eliminating farmers markets and roadside food stands all around the country. So while Greenberg might be wise to worry about how Obama is handling the economy, he might ultmately be hurting the Democrats just as much with his wife's foolish bill that is destined to cause something to hit the fan. And that something will be more than just organically grown tomatoes tossed by voters angry over being unable to purchase quality produce at low prices.