Media start timers on stimulus, Obama "honeymoon period"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

Since Congress passed President Obama's economic recovery bill, several media figures have warned that Obama could suffer political consequences if the nation's economy does not improve substantially in a short amount of time. But Obama has consistently emphasized the long-term nature of economic recovery, repeatedly stating that the recovery "will likely be measured in terms of years and not months."

Since Congress passed President Obama's economic recovery bill, several media figures have warned that Obama could suffer political consequences if the nation's economy does not improve substantially in a short amount of time. For example, during the February 17 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, senior White House correspondent Major Garrett asserted: "If economic results don't begin to happen rapidly, then the stimulus bill, which is not as popular as he is, will begin to converge with his own personal popularity and could bring that back down." Host Trace Gallagher later said: "How long is the honeymoon period? I mean, we're going to start the clock here a few minutes from now when this bill is signed. How long? Is it a week? Is it six months? When do we say, 'Look, we need results on this thing, lest we go back and look for more money'?" But Obama has consistently emphasized the long-term nature of economic recovery, repeatedly stating that the recovery "will likely be measured in terms of years and not months." Obama has also stated that recovery "will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better. But that is all the more reason for Congress to act without delay."

Others in the media have echoed the claim that Obama could suffer politically if the economy doesn't improve quickly. For example:

  • During the February 17 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed: "If we don't see unemployment drop in two months, we can say it didn't work. And we're gonna -- we're gonna proclaim it loudly, that it didn't work."
  • During the February 17 edition of MSNBC Live, Republican strategist and FoxNews.com contributor Andrea Tantaros asserted that the recovery package "is a Democratic bill. So, if this bill fails -- and we will know very quickly if it stimulates the economy or it doesn't -- Democrats as a party will pay in the polls."
  • During the February 14 Fox News special Trillion with a T: How To Spend $1,000,000,000,000.00, host Bret Baier asked Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): "If the economy doesn't turn around fairly quickly, will President Obama pay a political price?" Flake responded: "I think so."

In February 13 remarks to the Business Council, Obama stated:

Now, passing this plan is a critical step, but as important as it is, it's only the beginning of what I think all of you understand is going to be a long and difficult process of turning our economy around. To truly address this crisis, we will also need to address the crisis in our financial sector to get credit flowing again to families and businesses. And we need to confront the crisis in the housing sector that's been one of the sources of our economic challenges. I'll be discussing that extensively soon. We're going to need comprehensive financial reform in the way government relates to the financial markets in order to deal with the complex challenges of the 21st century -- both as a way to restore trust and also ensure that a crisis like this can never happen again.

And finally, we have to approach our budget in a responsible way. It's my strong belief that we're going to have to invest in the short term to get our economy moving again and that we would be foolish to ignore our current perils. But I also think that it's important for us to think in the midterm and long term. And over that midterm and long term, we're going to have to have fiscal discipline. We are not going to be able to perpetually finance the levels of debt that the federal government occur and carry.

And that means investing in priorities like energy and health care and education that will grow our economy again. But it also means eliminating those programs that are wasteful and duplicative, and that we simply cannot afford. We have to once again live within our means. We're going to have to make some tough decisions that many of you are already making in your companies, but the federal government has not made with respect to our operations.

It will take all of these steps to not only lead to an economic recovery, but to lead to a long-term path to economic prosperity. And this work will not be easy. Our recovery will likely be measured in years and not months. All of us -- government, business, labor, and citizens -- will have responsibilities to meet. And I will be looking to all of you for your ideas and innovations, for your help not only crafting the policies of the 21st century, but crafting a government for the 21st century that can be a partner with you. Your best practices should be our best practices.

In February 12 remarks to Caterpillar employees in East Peoria, Illinois, Obama stated:

Passing this plan is an important step -- but it's just one step. It's only the beginning of what we're going to have to do to turn around our economy. So to truly address this crisis, we're also going to need to address the home mortgage crisis. We're going to have to get credit flowing again. We need to reform our financial markets, both to restore trust and ensure that a crisis like this can never happen again. And whether it's rebuilding our schools or reforming our health care system or investing in clean energy, much work remains to lay the foundation for long-term economic growth and fiscal responsibility.

We've got to spend some money now to pull us out of this recession. But as soon as we're out of this recession, we've got to get serious about starting to live within our means, instead of leaving debt for our children and our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. That's not the responsible way. That's not how folks here in Peoria operate in their own lives, and they should expect the government is equally responsible.

So the road ahead is not an easy one. Some of our plans might not always work out exactly the way we'd like. Our recovery will likely be measured in terms of years and not months.

In February 9 remarks in Elkhart, Indiana, Obama stated:

We know that even with this plan, the road ahead won't be easy. This crisis has been a long time in the making, and we know that we cannot turn it around overnight. Recovery will likely be measured in years, not weeks or months. But we also know that our economy will be stronger for generations to come if we commit ourselves to the work that needs to be done today. And being here in Elkhart, I am more confident than ever before that we will get where we need to be.

In a January 8 speech at George Mason University in Virginia, Obama said (retrieved from the Nexis database):

Now, this recovery plan alone will not solve all the problems that led us into this crisis. We must also work with the same sense of urgency to stabilize and repair the financial system we all depend on. That means using our full arsenal of tools to get credit flowing again to families and business, while restoring confidence in our markets. It means launching a sweeping effort to address the foreclosure crisis so that we can keep responsible families in their homes. It means preventing the catastrophic failure of financial institutions whose collapse could endanger the entire economy, but only with maximum protections for taxpayers and a clear understanding that government support for any company is an extraordinary action that must come with significant restrictions on the firms that receive support. And it means reforming a weak and outdated regulatory system so that we can better withstand financial shocks and better protect consumers, investors, and businesses from the reckless greed and risk-taking that must never endanger our prosperity again.

No longer can we allow Wall Street wrongdoers to slip through regulatory cracks. No longer can we allow special interests to put their thumbs on the economic scales. No longer can we allow the unscrupulous lending and borrowing that leads only to destructive cycles of bubble and bust.

It is time to set a new course for this economy, and that change must begin now. We should have an open and honest discussion about this recovery plan in the days ahead, but I urge Congress to move as quickly as possible on behalf of the American people. For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs. More families will lose their savings. More dreams will be deferred and denied. And our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That is not the country I know, and it is not a future I will accept as President of the United States. A world that depends on the strength of our economy is now watching and waiting for America to lead once more. And that is what we will do.

It will not come easy or happen overnight, and it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better. But that is all the more reason for Congress to act without delay. I know the scale of this plan is unprecedented, but so is the severity of our situation. We have already tried the wait-and-see approach to our problems, and it is the same approach that helped lead us to this day of reckoning.

From the February 17 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:

PATTI ANN BROWNE (anchor): Well, Major, with the Democrats in control here, what is at stake for President Obama politically?

GARRETT: Well, it's very simple, Patti Ann. Right now if you look at the polling data on the stimulus bill, the stimulus bill runs anywhere from 10 to 20 points behind President Obama's personal popularity and leadership qualities. Eventually, if not starting at the moment he puts pen to paper today, those two polling data -- pieces of data are going to merge. The president is going to be married to the stimulus bill. It's his bill. He can say it was written in Washington, it was written by Congress, but he advocated strongly, strenuously, went around the country saying, "This bill needs to be signed, it needs to be passed, and it needs to be passed in a big, big hurry." Well, he got the bill. He got it passed in a big hurry.

Let's just think about this for a second. We're in the middle of February. If you compare this to the first hundred days of FDR during the Great Depression and how much was spent then and how many programs were put in place, this amount of money, number one, is larger; number two, it's been dealt with by Congress much more rapidly than were the spending programs put together and signed by FDR in the first hundred days of his administration. So everything is happening faster, as the president asked for. If economic results don't begin to happen rapidly, then the stimulus bill, which is not as popular as he is, will begin to converge with his own personal popularity and could bring that back down.

GALLAGHER: Major, when you say, "rapidly" -- I know you're going to be in these White House briefings everyday, putting Robert Gibbs' feet to the fire on this. How long is the honeymoon period? I mean, we're going to start the clock here a few minutes from now when this bill is signed. How long? Is it a week? Is it six months? When do we say, "Look, we need results on this thing, lest we go back and look for more money"?

From the February 17 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: We haven't even gotten to TARP II, which is going to be a trillion dollars -- the nationalization of the banks. And we haven't even gotten to Stimulus II, which is going to happen. And one of the reasons it's going to happen -- look, we've got things that we can measure here. Right off the bat. This thing's gonna get signed in one hour. If we don't see unemployment drop in two months, we can say it didn't work. And we're gonna -- we're gonna proclaim it loudly, that it didn't work. If we don't see a bunch of new schools being built, if we don't see a bunch of roads and bridges being repaired, above what's already happening, we're gonna say, "Hey, this isn't working." Because I'll tell you what's gonna happen. When the economy rebounds for whatever reason -- and it will not be this stimulus package -- but we have a totally in-the-tank, sycophantic, they're-gonna-die-of-anal-poisoning-someday media that cannot wait to credit Barack Obama for any -- the smallest little economic uptick.

If, for example, this Caterpillar guy -- and I wouldn't be surprised if this happens -- if the Caterpillar guy, within, say, three weeks of the stimulus being passed -- remember, he's on Obama's economic advisory team in the White House. Let's say a month from today, Caterpillar announces they're gonna rehire a thousand people. Do you realize -- do you realize what the news is going to look like that day? Because what's the story now? The story is Obama went out and said, "Caterpillar guy CEO told me that if the stimulus is passed that we're gonna start hiring people." The next day, the Caterpillar CEO says, "Eh, not quite sure. I think we're still facing layoffs. It's going to be a little while before we can start hiring back."

OK, so that's where we are. What if in a month, Caterpillar starts hiring people? I think you should look for bigger headlines in The New York Times than on V-E Day. The headlines will be bigger the first economic report that's an uptick than they were for when we won in World War II. The fix is in, folks. The fix is in to make this guy the most successful, the most rapidly successful president ever. And that's why if unemployment in two months is still going up, this is a failure. If you don't see any new schools, if you don't see any roads being repaired, bridges blah da ba da ba da, then we're going to proclaim it a failure because we're being -- "Now, but Rush, but Rush, Obama says it's going to take a while." They're saying all kinds of things. I'm not going to react to what they say. They're saying it's going to be a long time. I think they're just lowering expectations. I think one of the reasons they really hustled to put this through is that they know at some point the economy's going to recover. They want to be able to give the stimulus package and thus Obama credit for it. That was one of the real reasons for haste, in addition to getting a bunch of pure garbage in this bill passed into law before anybody could see it. Back in a moment.

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on February 17:

TANTAROS: Contessa, I'm happy -- I'm actually happy the Democrats did it this way. Because now, this is a strictly -- this is a Democratic bill. So, if this bill fails -- and we will know very quickly if it stimulates the economy or it doesn't -- Democrats as a party will pay in the polls.

From the February 14 Fox News special Trillion with a T: How To Spend $1,000,000,000,000.00:

BAIER: If the economy doesn't turn around fairly quickly, will President Obama pay a political price?

FLAKE: I think so. I mean, everybody recognizes that it's not a good thing to carry this level of debt and to have this big a deficit.

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