The president is moving so fast, so sweepingly, that we may as well call him "Fast Break" Obama. For several reasons—the urgency of the economic crisis, a backlog of frustrated Democratic dreams and his own shrewd strategic sense—he's racing up the basketball court of American public life at a furious pace. (Article continued below...)
Obama wants to pile up a crushing lead on the scoreboard early in the game—when his popularity is high and he can still lay all the blame on his predecessor—and hope that the resulting momentum will impress the world (he goes to Europe for the G-8 in April), reluctant global investors (the sovereign wealth funds are sitting on trillions) and, of course, American voters and consumers.
The guy appears laid back, and he can be patient when he has to be, but right now he believes in motion—lots of it. If you move fast enough, he also knows, people don't have time to flyspeck details—and some of the details in his new budget, the outlines of which he released Thursday, are either squishy, controversial or both. There are literally hundreds of things in the budget to focus on, but I will pick out just three:
Still, there is no guarantee that any of this will happen at all. In the heartland of America—places where they cling to their guns and their religion—they burn coal. Lots of coal. If Obama and the Democrats push this plan, a regional war will erupt. It will be ugly and it won't shape up along party lines. It's not a source of revenue Orszag should count on—at least not just yet—especially if the president is expecting to have an easy time winning Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania in 2012.