My city, Washington, D.C., is going bonkers for Obama. So is yours no doubt. Shopping for party favors, I came across -- in addition to key chains and light-up necklaces -- T-shirts and coffee mugs emblazoned with the Anointed One's photograph. Jan. 12's Washington Post carries a story about Obama attorney Greg Craig. He took the job imagining he'd be confronting knotty separation of powers issues. And he may. But for now, he's "charged with stopping the commercial exploitation of his client's image -- the Obama can openers, Obama chocolate chip cookies, Obama chocolate bars and the like now on sale just about everywhere."
I've never witnessed enthusiasm like this for an incoming president. There's always a degree of giddiness on the part of those who supported the president-elect, whoever he is, but today's excitement borders on worship. It's an interesting contrast. Times are pretty tough. Our economy is struggling. Unemployment is exploding. Once iconic American manufacturers, to say nothing of banks, insurance companies, and securities firms, are lining up for federal handouts. The greatest terror-sponsoring nation on the face of the globe is about to acquire nuclear weapons. And yet people are thrilled with Obama and convinced that he can tackle these complex problems.
I hope he can. But honestly, the noises he is making so far and his proposal for a trillion dollars in new federal spending are scary. Admittedly and sadly, this isn't much of a departure from the Bush administration's death throes, when the president -- terrified of being tagged forever with the Hoover label -- reversed a lifetime of adherence to free market principles to bail out a conga line of supplicants. (The irony is rich because Hoover himself doubled federal spending during the Great Depression. He became a Hoover anyway.) For the record, it should be noted that this was President Bush's self-description ("I'm a free market guy"), not a dispassionate assessment of his administration's economic philosophy, which was hardly small government.
The Democrats are in the driver's seat now. And with the exception of a brief period in the 1990s after Ross Perot made everyone deficit conscious, Democrats are the party of government -- that is, the party of domestic spending. Every indicator of economic decline seems to them a green light to do what they would have done anyway -- party like it's 1933! It's not that they are buying votes. No, the times demand extreme measures.