Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist and a member of the editorial board of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Read his column here
Ruben Navarrette says Barack Obama, inspiring on the campaign trail, is failing economics in the White House.
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) -- Welcome to March Madness on the Potomac.
Many Americans are so emotionally invested in the Obama presidency that they consider it too historic to fail.
They won't tolerate any criticism of the president or his administration, finding it easier to simply attack critics. And whatever goes wrong that they can't defend or deflect, they just blame on George W. Bush.
But to many of the rest of us, it's clear that President Obama is flunking economics. He is trying to do too much at once, and so he is not doing any of it well. He vows to cut the federal deficit while proposing an avalanche of new spending that will -- says the Congressional Budget Office -- increase the national debt by as much as $9.3 trillion over the next decade.
Here's the really bad news, though. No matter what else goes awry, Obama's strong suits are supposed to be communications and marketing. Yet, this week we learned that this isn't the case when he has to communicate and market his message on economics.
It doesn't help matters much that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner seems too small for his chair. When he needs to inspire confidence, Geithner does the opposite. Whenever he speaks and comes up short on specifics, the Dow plummets. And when that happens, the Obama supporters don't care and insist that Wall Street is part of the problem and thus can't recognize the solution.
This week, after learning of the Treasury Department's plan to help banks unload so-called toxic assets, the market bounced back a bit. And now the Obama supporters are singing a different tune.
But here's the big question: When Wall Street smiles on a government bailout, is it a good or bad thing for average Americans? It depends on how much is being given away and who has to pay the bill.
This much is indisputable: The administration's economic plan is so sweeping, and our financial situation so precarious, that the administration needs nothing less than a master salesman for its economic agenda. Clearly, Geithner isn't up to the job. The sooner he steps aside, the better it will be for the administration.
According to the pundits, Obama is supposed to pick up the slack and seal the deals that Geithner can't seem to close. However, anyone who tuned into this week's press conference has to wonder whether the president hasn't lost his touch. The popular narrative from conservatives -- that Obama stumbles when he is off the teleprompter -- is becoming more believable.
When asked by a reporter about whether his budget would blow up the deficit and stick future generations with the bill, Obama got defensive and turned his answer into a slam against Republicans and then obfuscated his way through the rest of the question.
When CNN's Ed Henry asked the president why it took him so long to publicly condemn the more than $150 million in AIG bonuses, as opposed to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo who turned the issue into a national outrage, Obama appeared to take a swipe at Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, by saying: "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak."
Or maybe it's just that Obama realized that his administration wasn't guilt-free in the AIG debacle. There are many unanswered questions. Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut, told CNN last week that someone at the Treasury Department told him to put in the language in the bailout bill allowing for executive bonuses.
If he's telling the truth (and really who knows, given that CNN caught Dodd being untruthful on the subject earlier) we need to know who in the Obama administration ordered the loophole. And that person needs to be removed.
This week's news conference wasn't exactly Obama's finest hour. Still, it wasn't as bad as making a mocking reference to the Special Olympics on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" or joking about the recession on CBS' "60 Minutes."
How is it possible that someone who was so likeable and so inspiring while running for president could, day by day, be so unlikable and so uninspiring as president?
It's become more common for people to say that they want President Obama to fail. I don't want him to fail. I want him to succeed. I just don't see how we get there from here.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ruben Navarrette.
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