Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Jonathan Freedland is Full of.... Baloney.

In his Guardian column about the G20 summit, Jonathan Freedland critiques President Obama's performance at this morning's press conference, saying:

Brown was relaxed and fluent at the podium, while it was Obama who gave the more faltering, sometimes long-winded performance. Obama appeared to be stumped twice, first by a question from the BBC's Nick Robinson – which invited the president to wonder why France and Germany blame the US for the recession – and next by a deceptively simple inquiry from a member of the travelling press corps: does the president advise ordinary Americans to spend or save? One brought audible hesitation; the other a bit of a ramble as Obama visibly tried to work out what to say.

OK, well fair enough - I thought - maybe our guy was just having an off day. It happens.

But then I went to the source. Here was the Q&A referring to France and Germany:

Q Prime Minister, thank you very much, indeed. Nick Robinson, BBC News. A question for you both, if I may. The Prime Minister has repeatedly blamed the United States of America for causing this crisis. France and Germany blame both Britain and America for causing this crisis. Who is right? And isn't the debate about that at the heart of the debate about what to do now?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I would say that if you look at the sources of this crisis, the United States certainly has some accounting to do with respect to a regulatory system that was inadequate to the massive changes that had taken place in the global financial system.

I think what is also true is that here in Great Britain, in continental Europe, around the world, we were seeing the same mismatch between the regulatory regimes that were in place and the highly integrated global capital markets that had emerged.

So at this point, I'm less interested in identifying blame than fixing the problem. And I think we've taken some very aggressive steps in the United States to do so -- not just responding to the immediate crisis, ensuring that banks are adequately capitalized, dealing with the enormous drop-off in demand and the contraction that's been taking place, but more importantly for the long term, making sure that we've got a set of regulations that are up to the task.

That strikes me as a good answer. It's gracious to the leaders he's going to be meeting with, avoiding a needless confrontation, it's constructive and informative. I mean, what was he looking for?

And as for the pause - yes, there was one. But it didn't sound to me like the President didn't know what to say, more that he was choosing his words carefully. See for yourself. In the video above, Nick Robinson's question comes at about 1 minute 55 seconds in.

So - am I right? Let me know in comments if you think I'm just being a shameless Kool Aid drinker - I'm tough I can take it.


Tim said...

Since the world economy rises and falls with the tide of the US Economy(for now), Obama probably had to shelf his first comment "Bite Me".
Instead his answer was probably too forgiving of the rest of the worlds willingness to sit in the sunshine of the US economy but not help build shelter against the inevitable spring rains.
Remember; the alternative to credit default swaps and aggressive lending practices was not more regulation and equal prosperity. The choice was more regulation and less prosperity.
In a free market economy, the questions relates not to the avoidance of economic cycles, rather, when will the next economic cycle begin and what form will it take.
Would you like to have 3 months of drizzle or a week of downpours.
I am a downpour guy myself. Because in the end we know it will rain and we know summer will come.
In the word of macroeconomics we know weather patterns change seasons are unavoidable.

kathyflake said...

I saw it live, and it was nothing of the sort. Hesitating? He's apparently never seen Obama speak. He speaks in a slow, deliberative way because he actually THINKS as he speaks.

Perhaps he was expecting Bush?

Obama London said...

Hey Kathy,

Yeah, that was how I read it too. It's crazy how the whole world media will jump on you if you put a word out of place, but pause for a moment to construct a coherent sentance and they have a problem with that too.


I hear you - but actually the relaxation of previously existing regulation int he US opened the door not just to the boom and bust cycle but also to the fraud and corruption that lead to the Madoff's of the world and that may still turn out to be behind a lot of the banking malpractice. So I'm not convinced on that score. There tends to be an assumption in the US that the American economy will always be the world leader - if it turns out that our financial system can't be trusted that need not always be the case if the world markets lose confidence in the longer term. In such cases, regulation is actually a pro-growth tack - it allows people domestically and internationally to feel safe taking credit again.

kathyflake said...

I just read the Guardian's write up of the press conference, and they got it wrong too. They were obsessed with how Gordon Brown seemed "eager" to have Obama linger, while Obama was impatient to leave.

Again, I think they were watching a different presser. Or else they're so obsessed with their loathing of Brown they can't see anything but how it plays against him.