Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Settling In

President Obama’s prime-time press conference last night lasted almost an hour and most of the questions were about the economy, but the overall impression I got from it was that the president was getting comfortable in the job. Unlike earlier events, including his first speech to Congress last month and his first presser a few weeks ago, he didn’t have a sense of urgency about him, and he handled the opening statement and questions with a lower-key level of energy. It didn’t mean he wasn’t serious about the issues, but at least there wasn’t the atmosphere that we were in for what Wash called in the film Serenity, an “interesting” landing: “Oh, God, oh God, we’re all gonna die.”

Most of the questions revolved around the economic crisis and how the administration planned to rescue faltering banks and institutions, cut the deficit, get people back to work, reassure global markets, and deal with health care, energy, education, in his free time, deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The president also dealt deftly with some of the questioners, giving CNN’s Ed Henry a fairly terse yet cool reply to his persistent question as to why the president didn’t speak out immediately about the A.I.G. bonuses at the time when the airwaves were filled with outraged Senators and Congresspeople and Beltway pundits: “It took us a couple of days because I like to know what I’m talking about before I speak.” Snap.

The president said he could already see signs of recovery in the economy, and the stock markets seem to have, for the moment, stopped its plummeting fall and turning it into a more controlled dive. But in a time when people expect instant results and wait breathlessly for the next Twitterpation, asking for patience and long-term results may require more resolve than what we’re used to. The president noted several times that he is still the new kid in town, having been in office for only 64 days, and that none of these problems are going to be solved in the first year or two. That’s true, and as he said on 60 Minutes the other night, if the problems and decisions were easy, someone else would have dealt with them before they got to him. But at some point, the newness factor wears off, and the line about “we’ve only been here X number of days/weeks/months” gets stale. One thing is certain; there will be some talking head on a cable show this morning wondering where the Obama miracle went.