‘obama averted disasters, but getting credit is the hard part’

Michael Grunwald (Time): The New Republic recently asked an intriguing question about the U.S. intervention in Libya: Why isn’t Obama getting credit for preventing an atrocity? The answer is obvious when you think about it: because he prevented the atrocity. It’s hard to get credit for avoiding a disaster when it’s impossible to prove the disaster would have happened without you. Social scientists call this the counterfactual problem….

This is a problem for public policy because preventing disasters is infinitely preferable to stopping them in progress. And it’s a political problem for Obama … He is the counterfactual President, not just on his Libya policy, but on almost all his policies. And as his aides often complain, “I prevented a disaster” is a lousy political slogan….

The most extreme example, of course, was the $787 billion stimulus package that Obama signed during his first month in office, when the economy was shedding 700,000 jobs a month. The immediate goal was to avoid a depression, and in that sense it was a tremendous success, stopping the hemorrhaging and stabilizing the scariest economic situation since the Great Depression…..

… His financial reforms should reduce the chances of another Wall Street meltdown, but it’s classic disaster prevention: if they fail, it’s a scandal, and if they work, we won’t notice…

Most of Obama’s counterfactual problems can be traced to what his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel calls the “gift bag” that President Bush left for him. The gift bag included the worst economy in 80 years, a nightmare on Wall Street, a deficit spiraling out of control, one unnecessary war in Iraq and one intractable war in Afghanistan, a dysfunctional health care system, and an energy policy that was broiling the planet and exposing consumers to violent swings in gas prices….

Full article here

18 Responses to “‘obama averted disasters, but getting credit is the hard part’”

  1. April 4, 2011 at 11:12 am

    First..!! 😀

    hehe…From my twitter timeline:

    RT @WEESeeYou: GOP may have Velma “I’m Exhausted” Hart in their ad but WEE got EDITH CHILDS on our side: http://bit.ly/iiD622 #news #obama

  2. 2 CTGirl
    April 4, 2011 at 11:24 am

    He is the hardest working man in politics! Then again, there I go with stating a fact, when folks are more willing to accept fiction over fact. I am proud of him and his administration!

  3. April 4, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Yet had these disasters happened, the public would be very angry that they all could have been avoided.

  4. 4 cuphalffull
    April 4, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I listened just now to a panel of guests on NPR on the Diane Rheam show. This idea that there was no real evidence that Gaddhafi would attack his citizens mercilessly was stated, the idea that the rebels were as much a threat as the regime they were trying to topple was suggested, that we should arm the rebels and get in there and take out the regime was advocated, that Gaddhafi is a good guy who swore off terrorism and decided to not develop nuclear arms was proposed. A caller stated that we rushed to war in Iraq and the press failed us when it came to information so he generalized that the President must have been obfuscating and the press was covering up for him. It truly made my head spin. What was glaring to me was that there was no one there who could speak to the truth!

    • 5 Mae who love our CIC
      April 4, 2011 at 12:04 pm

      They never want the truth. It is easier to spout falsehoods with no rebuttals than to actual lay out facts with supportive evidence.

    • 6 Tien Le
      April 4, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      I suppose they could ask the people in Libya if they thought Qaddafi was going to slaughter them or not? Oh wait…

    • 7 Blackman
      April 4, 2011 at 3:54 pm

      Yeah, Cup. I heard that this morning as well.

      It was like: “WHAT”????? “WHERE have these guys been”????? He who admitted that he blew a passenger jet out of the sky (and any number of other things he’s done and continues to do) was, indeed, presented as if he were sincerely repentant. And, on and on just as you are saying.

      What got me, though, Cup, was that Ms. Rheam did not push back very much at all. At least it didn’t seem so to me. And, unless one didn’t know better, it was as if this panel were presenting as PBO had done the same thing that Bush had done in Iraq – a unilateral approach.

      It was VERY weird.

      • 8 Lovepolitics2008
        April 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm

        PBO and his team don’t bother about pundits. Does that mean there’s not a lot of work behind the scenes to send spokespersons to shows, or to brief those so-called “pundits” on the rationale for their decisions? Since those pundits don’t whork very much and don’t inform themselves, since they often repeat the talking points they have received from tink tanks and political operatives, we end up hearing a lot of crap and the WH message doesn’t get through except when the President speaks.

        I get the idea of putting the emphasis on organizing, on action; I get the idea that the best message is when people talk to each other, etc. I also understand that the media culture and the political system give the “whiners” an advantage. But shouldn’t the WH be more agressive in messaging ? I don’t know… special briefings with the cable news pundits, more access, giving them some lessons in history, “helping” them with the economic data because I bet they don’t understand it, and on and on… Anything !!!

        Because let’s face it, the President’s message is a bit lost among all the noise and the stupidity.

        That being said, if the WH is indeed putting a lot of effort and the pundits are deliberately ignoring them, that’s outrageous. But if it’s a bit of a choice by the WH to not put too much emphasis in their relations with traditional media, I’m wondering if they should reconsider this strategy (while keeping their strategy of grass-roots organizing of course…)

  5. 9 Sonjia Duncan
    April 4, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Take a look at all the things this President has prevented and give credit where credit is due.

    Our voices are not being heard because we do not own or control the media. We must be innovative and each one of use must tell our story across this country. We must use the new media and old to get the word out there until our job is done. We can do this.

  6. 10 Fred
    April 4, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Yawn, another ridiculous article from a well intentioned journalist that needs to fill their story quota while trying to find a new angle!

    So preventing disasters is now considered a political problem……….Rrrrrrrright! Pfffft.

    • 11 Tien Le
      April 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm

      Yep…lots of back-handed compliments in that article. I hated it, actually.

      • 12 Fred
        April 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm

        The more I think about it the more I question whether it was well intentioned. I’m not familiar with that guy and his bias.

    • 13 Lovepolitics2008
      April 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

      I’m going to disagree with you. I felt the article was generally respectful and gave President Obama his due. The author simply and accurately pointed out that unfortunately President Obama doesn’t get the credit he deserves for all he has done. The analysis makes a lot of sense, politically speaking.

      • April 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm

        I must say, I agree with your take on the article Lovepolitics2008, I read it as being sympathetic to the President because he isn’t getting credit for the ‘disasters’ he’s averted.

        • 15 Dorothy Rissman
          April 4, 2011 at 9:03 pm

          I am with you and lovepolitics. PBO does not get the support or acknowledgment that he deserves. It is difficult for us, but the press plays rough. As to comments, read at your own risk. People who respond either are wildly in agreement with the article, or they think the article was a lie.

          It is just like a questionnaire. The people who respond are those who either hate or love something. Haters actually respond more frequently than lovers. This is a proven sociological fact.

      • 16 Dorothy Rissman
        April 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm

        lovepolitics, as to the other day, no hard feelings I hope. dr

  7. 17 S. Holland
    April 4, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Did anyone go read the comments after the great article??? What is wrong with people? Do they wear blinders? Do they believe everything they are told about “this evil man” w/o every checking anything?? Truly scares me how unthinking, dumb people are!

    • 18 Fred
      April 4, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Haters gonna hate. That’s just what they do. For every hater that is highly motived to comment there are hundreds that agreed with the article and didn’t comment. So I would not read too much into comments there, here or anywhere.

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