How Obama Could Have Better Fixed the Economy
The author of The Escape Artists discusses the mistakes the White House made implementing the economic recovery
Many voters see the economy as the most important issue heading into the 2012 election, and President Obama's chances for a second term may hinge on how voters feel he handled the 2008 financial crisis.
Why did you call the book The Escape Artists?
The premise was that Obama inherits this economic crisis, and he's got other things he wants to do, and he looks around and says, "Who am I going to be able to hire who will be able to handle this and get us out of this terrible situation," and the only people who really fit that bill were a group of people who had done this in the '90s. At that time there were some pretty serious financial crises overseas. I think of them as these "escape artists," by which I mean they were able to pull us out of this really dicey situation in the '90s and he was looking for a similar thing. As I write, it wasn't quite that simple this time around.
Why didn't the administration realize the severity of the economic crisis?
I think in fairness to them, if you just look at the way the numbers have been revised, even as late as last summer, they just kept getting worse and worse and worse. They weren't the only ones who didn't realize how bad it was. And on top of that, I think, many of them did realize that it was going to be really bad, and even the numbers that they had understated how bad it was. But to different degrees, they just felt like there were really practical constraints to what they could do. One of those practical constraints was
Why did they have so much trouble with the politics of the recovery?
His advisers, a lot of whom had served in the Clinton administration, felt as though they really knew how politics had worked, how
Did Obama's team misread the opposition?
You have a lot of guys who worked for
Did Obama try too hard to be bipartisan?
You cannot underestimate the importance of his own views on politics, his own interest in wanting to change
politics, what he had campaigned on. Bipartisanship was something that he really wanted to realize, not just talk
about. I talked to a lot of Obama advisers who just told me, look, there might have been some people within
Has Obama learned from this experience?
In the last six months you've really seen a difference, because if you take something like the payroll tax
cut, which they just extended for the full year, his approach to that was not to quietly engage them, and sound
them out behind closed doors, which had basically been his strategy for the last 2 years. His strategy was to
go out to the public and say, look, these guys better get their act together and extend this payroll tax
cut thing, otherwise people's taxes are going to go up, and they are going to be to blame. So he took a much
more partisan, much more hard-nosed approach when it came to that, and it worked, they did kind of cave.
It was kind of an implicit admission on the
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How Obama Could Have Better Fixed the Economy | Politics
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