Newsweek's Evan Thomas: Economic Solution 'May Just Be Throwing More Money At It'
Newsweek’s Evan Thomas, a former Washington bureau chief at the magazine, was typically blunt as he warmly assessed Obama’s first few days in office on the Saturday Early Show. "He's moving right along, he's not wasting any time. He still seems cool. I think the American public's still with him," he announced. But what about the crisis atmosphere in the economy and the banking sector? Said Thomas: "I don't know if there is a magic solution to it. It may just be throwing more money at it."
Saturday morning anchor Chris Wragge allowed Thomas to unveil a rosy scenario of accomplishment for Obama's early days:
WRAGGE: Four days, how do we grade him so far? Like Kimberly [Dozier] mentioned in her piece there a second ago, a lot of these Bush policies have kind of been turned on their ear here in the past couple of days. What are your thoughts?
THOMAS: He's doing what he did since the election. He's moving right along, he's not wasting any time. He still seems cool. I think the American public's still with him.
WRAGGE: Are we going to see a different tone in Washington like we've heard so much about in the--in the campaign, or is it just going to be politics as usual after this honeymoon wears off?
THOMAS: Well, for a while it's going to be different. He is reaching out to Republicans. They are pretty much going along with him. We'll see if it lasts, but he is trying to set a new tone, and I--you know, so far, so good.
It was interesting that Wragge worried about Obama suffering on the "safety standpoint" with the moves to overturn Bush war-on-terror policies:
WRAGGE: How long do you think the good will, though, will last? Just from a safety standpoint? It just seems like the strategy that's been in place for the last number of years to keep this country safe has kind of been turned on its head here these last couple of days.
THOMAS: Well, and I think Obama's own administration knows that. Yes, they closed down Guantanamo. Yes, they are saying no more to torture, but I don't think they're going to totally roll back the national security positions of the Bushes. They're going to continue to do eavesdropping. They're going to continue--they got to do something with the detainees. I--look, I don't think that Obama's just going to roll back everything that Bush did. Significant, I think, that there were airstrikes in...
WRAGGE: In Pakistan.
THOMAS: ...Pakistan, letting the world know that, you know, Obama means business about terror.
Thomas had four agenda items for Obama’s first 100 days:
WRAGGE: All right, let's talk about the first 100 days in office right now. April 29th, that is the 100-day mark. Now, you say there are four things that President Obama needs to accomplish by that day. The first is pass the stimulus package, correct?
THOMAS: Yeah, and I think he's going to do that just because I don't think Congress is going to vote against him.
WRAGGE: Secondly, you talk about reforming the entitlement system. Explain, please.
THOMAS: Well, this is important because it's easy to get Congress to spend money, but it's hard to get Congress to cut back. And he's going to get some political momentum from that stimulus package, but then he's got to do the really hard thing and say, `All right, now the time has come to start reforming entitlement programs,' which means cutting back on Social Security and Medicare. That is a thing that politicians really don't like to do. Other presidents have avoided doing it. Obama said he's going to do it. He needs to get the momentum that he's going to get from that stimulus package and begin that process.
WRAGGE: Tip three, signal change in America.
THOMAS: Well, he's closed Guantanamo and that's a good down payment.
THOMAS: But he needs to do something abroad to show that the Bush administration's days are over and that Obama does have a new approach. I mean, the world wants him to show a different side of America. He needs to do something affirmative, probably in the Middle East, to show that he's serious.
WRAGGE: And finally, he's got to shore up the banking system, but this is a lot easier said than done. Can he realistically do anything to shore up the banking system within 100 days?
Mr. THOMAS: We're in another crisis.
THOMAS: He's going to--looks like they have to spend more money. We need – I don't know if there is a magic solution to it. It may just be throwing more money at it.
WRAGGE: Yeah, the one thing he did say with these new briefings he's getting, it is worse than they originally expected. Evan Thomas for us in Washington this morning.
This money-throwing solution may sound natural to Thomas, whose grandfather, Norman Thomas, was a six-time Socialist Party presidential candidate, who once said:
"The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing how it happened."