Walking and chewing gum

WALKING AND CHEWING GUM…. Media Matters noted yesterday, “Recently, the media have highlighted claims that President Obama’s ‘plate’ is too ‘full,’ suggested he has ‘bit off more than he can chew,’ or otherwise given credence to the accusation that the president has loaded his agenda with unrelated items when he should be focusing on the economy.”

It’s become one of the dominant recent criticisms of the White House. The president is expected to address a series of crises, and produce quick and tangible results. Those same voices, of course, also want to see Obama do all of this slowly and incrementally.

The president is obviously aware of these concerns, and addressed them yesterday during a speech to the Business Roundtable.

“Does the greatest economic crisis in our lifetime warrant extraordinary action to deal with the array of challenges we face? Or should we limit our efforts, and try to deal with them incrementally, or one at a time?

“Now, let me say that it was not my preference, believe it or not, to launch my administration by passing the largest economic recovery plan in the nation’s history, or to face crises in the financial market and the automobile industry. It was not ideal to take office in the midst of the worst job and growth numbers in decades — particularly since we’re still in the midst of two wars. But that’s the duty I signed on for.

“And although my administration did not create these problems, it’s now not only my responsibility, but my extraordinary privilege, to help solve them. It’s my job to address every challenge that may threaten the strength and vitality of our families, our businesses, and our entire nation — now and in the future…. But the truth is that these problems in the financial market, as acute and urgent as they are, are only part of what threatens our economy. And we must not use the need to confront them as an excuse to keep ignoring the long-term threats to our prosperity: the cost of our health care and our oil addiction; our education deficit and our fiscal deficit.

“Now, I’m not choosing to address these additional challenges just because I feel like it, or because I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m doing so because they’re fundamental to our economic growth, and ensuring that we don’t have more crises like this in the future.”

He added, “When we issued the budget, they said, ‘Boy, these Obama people, they’re really ambitious. They’re taking on health care. They’re taking on energy. They’re taking on education. Don’t they know that there’s this bank crisis right now? We’ve got to do one thing at a time.’ ” Obama explained, though, that the budget is a decade-long blueprint: “We think that we’ve got to get the process and get in place a structure and a framework and a funding approach, and work out a lot of these details, but it’s going to be implemented over time.”

I’m very much inclined to agree with Eugene Robinson’s take on all of this: “It didn’t work to shout ‘socialism,’ so now they’re yelling ‘overload’ and ‘lack of focus.’ Critics of the Obama administration counsel the president and his aides to spend every waking hour … on the paralyzing financial crisis. What these critics really want, though, is to delay or derail the progressive reforms that voters elected President Obama to carry out. Advice to ‘fix’ the financial system before even thinking about health care, energy or education is either misguided or disingenuous. Fortunately, Obama seems to be ignoring all the chatter.”