Barack Obama Gets High Marks for Economics But Not for Rhetoric

His economic team is full of superstars, but Obama is coming up short lately when talking to Americans.


I'm gonna give President-elect Obama an A+ for the prose of governing, and a C- for the poetry.

Who would have thought that the guy who's been criticized for the past two years as naught but a sweet-talking celebrity would perform so well in the governing process, and come up so short on the inspirational rhetoric?

Again, today—great appointments, as Obama continues to assemble his team of superstars.

What's better than having Larry Summers or Timothy Geithner advising you on economic policy? Having Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner on your squad. And let's throw in the wicked smart Christina Romer, and the sure-handed Melody Barnes, for good measure.

Good, too, is the emphasis on bipartisanship. The country desperately needs to be unified, as Obama works his way through two wars and an economic meltdown. Could anything be worse right now than a bunch of partisan haggling?

But—and Rob Schlesinger, you're the expert on presidential rhetoric—am I wrong in saying that Mr. Charisma is coming up waaaaayy short when talking to Americans?

Or are we really supposed to be thrilled and reassured by the bunch of blah-blah-blah we just heard?

"We need a recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street." Now there is a toad of a cliché.

I know he is not president. I know he has to save something for the inaugural address. I know he's exhausted from a two-year campaign. I know he has to go into virtual lockdown as his advisers run a gazillion details by him, and every foreign head of state phones to congratulate.

In normal times, it would be fine for a president-elect to disappear, re-charge the batteries, bask a little and work on his plans for a new administration.

But these are not normal times, and the inauguration is still two months away. Obama needs to dazzle, and get folks swooning again. He should not let the hope and excitement of his victory dissipate.

  • Click here to read more by John Aloysius Farrell.
  • Click here to read more from the Thomas Jefferson Street blog.
  • Click here to read more about the Obama transition.
  • Click here to read more by Robert Schlesinger.