Withdraw thy foot from thy neighbour's house; lest he be weary of thee, and so hate thee.
by George Will
A 19th-century historian called the Middle Ages "a thousand years without a bath." That oversimplified somewhat, but was interestingly suggestive. So is the summation of Obama's opening sprint as 100 days without silence.
Ordinary politicians cannot comprehend that it is possible for the public to see and hear too much of them. In this sense, Obama is very ordinary. A few leaders of democracies have understood the importance of being economical with their demands for the public's attention. Charles de Gaulle believed that remoteness nurtures a mystique that is an essential ingredient of leadership. Ronald Reagan, an actor, knew that the theatrical dimension of politics requires periodic absences of the star from center stage. He spent almost an eighth—a year—of his presidency at his ranch. But when he spoke, people listened. If Obama, constantly flitting here and there, continues to bombard the nation with his presence, he will learn how skillfully Americans wield the basic tool of modern happiness, the TV remote control with its mute button.
Calvin Coolidge, the last president with a proper sense of his office's constitutional proportions, was known, not coincidentally, as Silent Cal. His reticence expressed an institutional modesty: "It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man.""Men," Coolidge said, "do what I tell them to do—why, is a great mystery to me." Perhaps it was because he did not ask them to do all that much. Unless today's Congress can legislate that there shall henceforth be 36 hours in a day, and unless it can lengthen the year by four months—some liberals probably think Congress can—Obama will soon learn what happens when government's circuitry becomes overloaded.
The trajectory of Obama's presidency might have been determined by what he did in his first 100 days. His budget calls for doubling the national debt in five years and almost tripling it in 10. If the necessary government borrowing soon causes a surge in long-term interest rates, the result will be the 1970s redux—inflation and stagnation. If so, the 44th president will be remembered not as the second iteration of the 32nd (Franklin Roosevelt) but of the 39th (Jimmy Carter).
And in case you were in a coma and missed the first 100 days; here it is in 5 minutes:
© Janet Crain
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