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Let Us Know When We Can Hope Again, Monsieur le Président

February 3, 2009

Bush got frequently bashed from the Left when he made optimistic comments on dire looking situations like the Iraq war. McCain received ridicule when he said that the fundamentals of the economy were strong after the financial meltdown had begun. With President Obama, those who find fault with optimistic statements made by the president or by those who aspire to become the president must finally be satisfied. (Although one might be ill-advised to tell them, since they apparently prefer hearing about doom and gloom.)

It was the core of M Obama’s campaign strategy to point out the many reasons to be unhappy and discontent in pre-Obama America. Of course, the conclusion of the message was supposed to be the unconditional need for “change” and that he would be the one to make this change happen. But Obama put a lot of emphasis on a miserable present and contrasted it only seldom with a nostalgic version of the past or an unspecific depiction of a future Utopia.

McCain often mentioned “hurting Americans” sitting around the kitchen table trying to find a solution to their economic woes. But he then went on to talk about his solutions to these problems. For Obama, on the other hand, telling his listeners how justified their grievances were was a central part of his campaign. His 30-minutes TV ad a few days before the election focused exlusively on the sad and bitter parts of  the lives of different Americans. Not to say that the persons in this ad were whiners, but the moral of the Obama infomercial was that it is not enough to have a family and to live in freedom in the land of opportunity, but that you must also be free of debt, otherwise life is just too unfair to be enjoyed and government has to intervene to make you happy again.

And, of course, an entire book could be written about Obama’s wife’s preaching on “downright mean” America whose fear-driven, “struggling” and “jammed up” constituents have a “hole in [their] souls” that only her husband can fix.

Now that Obama is in the White House and the financial crisis is still wreaking havoc, the President has repeatedly predicted that the worst is yet to come. (Even though Obama’s campaign rhetoric and many of his supporters suggested that once he has become president all problems of the world will be solved.) As Goldfarb mentions, Jack Welch is correct when he says that the President’s expression of pessimism is not helpful in an economic crisis. He is a leader now and should know that when he tells the public that things will get worse this can easily turn into a  self-fulfilling prophecy.

After promising little less than the healing of our souls, isn’t it time for a bit more optimism from M Obama? Or does he believe that everybody feels like Ashley Judd or Sean Penn who would certainly be as enthralled by his presidency as they are even if they had to sit around the kitchen table worried about their debts?

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