How the tables have turned. In September 2008, when GOP presidential nominee John McCain said "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," unemployment was 6.1 percent, the credit crunch had yet to reach the point that prompted President George W. Bush to propose a bailout, and Team Obama proclaimed that an out-of-touch McCain "just doesn't get it" on the economy.
Now with unemployment at 8.1 percent, the $700 billion-plus Bush bailout has been followed by the $787 billion Obama stimulus package, and some D.C. Democrats already are arguing for another stimulus package because the first Obama stimulus bill didn't do the trick. Yet top Obama economic adviser Christina Romer told "Meet the Press" on Sunday, "Of course, the fundamentals (of the U.S. economy) are sound in the sense that the American workers are sound, we have a good capital stock, we have good technology." (Those qualifying statements sound a lot like the McCain explanation for his positive diagnosis of the economy -- "that the workers of America are the fundamentals of the economy.")
President Obama himself said last week, "If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy ... then we're going to get through this."
If Obama is confident about the soundness of the U.S. economy, does that mean he "just doesn't get it?" No, it means that he is president. Now he has to pay the political price for incessant badmouthing of the U.S. economy. Now he has to prop up the very system at which he had been sniping for years.
And I do mean years. Of course Obama spent 2007 and 2008 talking down the economy -- he was running in a Democratic primary. But as far back as 2002, before he became a senator, Obama suggested that Bush was waging war against Saddam Hussein "to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression." Factually, Obama was incorrect. There had been four bigger one-month drops since the Depression -- but there was little downside to over-trashing the economy, albeit inaccurately, during the Bush years.