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Opinion: After Suskind Book, NY-9 and Jobs, Obama's Week Has to Get Better

Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 10:00 PM

This has been a terrible week for the Democrats. First they lost a seat in Brooklyn that the Democrats have held since the Earth started cooling, then the US Postal Service - the Post Office - started to implode, announcing that it will shed 150,000 jobs, and Bank of America announced that its slimming down by a whopping 30,000 employees.

Then we get more bad news from Forbes Magazine about the housing market:

The number of U.S. homes that received an initial default notice - the first step in the foreclosure process - jumped 33 percent in August from July, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday. The increase represents a nine-month high and the biggest monthly gain in four years. The spike signals banks are starting to take swifter action against homeowners, nearly a year after processing issues led to a sharp slowdown in foreclosures.

This week a new book hits the shevles by journalist Ron Suskind called Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President. The Washingtin Post describes Administration officials "scrambl[ing] to hunt down copies of a new book... that paints an unflattering portrait of a dysfunctional and acrimonious White House that sometimes stymied President Obama’s effort to rescue the country’s economy."

The book comes at an inconvenient time for an administration that increasingly finds itself on the defensive over questions of effectiveness, and it is especially brutal for Obama because it contradicts his campaign persona as new, fresh, and and enlightened. The book undermines all of that including how women are supposedly treated in the White House - remember women voted Obama into the White House by significant numbers.

Adding insult to injury, James Carville, the Ragin' Cajun, said this weekend that he's been thinking about what the White House should do right now. "One word came to mind: Panic.” He said he would tell the president to “make a case like a Democrat” and fight the “Republican austerity garbage.”

This week was nothing less than a tsunami, the convergence of declining confidence in and support for Obama, which has been building like a pressure cooker for a year and a half. On top of that the poll numbers for Obama are terrible.

The truth is that in 2008 all sorts of voters elected Obama and Democrats to clean house in Washington and Wall Street after the disastrous eight years of Bush and Cheney. Even many Republicans were angry and felt that those eight years produced a trainwreck in the economy, the national budget and debt, and conflicts of interest with Halliburton and Cheney.

Torture as a tool for gaining intelligence was deeply disturbing  - and as John McCain said, ineffective for getting much information. There was unspeakable stink of crime in how mortgages were written (Countrywide and WAMU come to mind) and then homes taken away from millions of folks under water.  The "let them eat cake" attitude of Wall Street billionaires and banking moguls flew in the face of a middle class that was in pain and being squeezed.

Folks I talk to and who call or send me letters or e-mail here in Iowa feel that someone – actually many people -should have been punished for this profligacy. Only Bernie Madoff stands out as an example of crime and just punishment. Everyone else pretty much walked because they were in charge of the fuel that drives the economy - money and banking - and they were too big to fail. Then, the White House was handed over to the same Wall Street gang that Americans feel drove the USA into the ditch. They became the cabinet and we entrusted the chicken coop to the foxes.

Now all those chickens are coming home to roost.  

Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy (also Coastal Zone Management) at Iowa State University, affiliate Nova Oceanographic Center, author of 11 books, 40 years analyzing the Iowa Caucuses, Des Moines Register and WNYC “It’s a Free Country” blogger, CNN en Español analyst and commentator, and Chief Political Correspondent Insider Iowa

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