August 20 2012
Shocker Newsweek Cover: It's Time for a New President
Will Newsweek editor Tina Brown stop at nothing?
Here’s the cover headline to the new issue of the normally Obama-loving weekly:
Hit the Road, Barack. We need a new president now.
The article is by the Brit historian and journalist Niall Ferguson, who writes on financial history and was an adviser to the John McCain’s presidential campaign. Ferguson begins by recalling that he had been a good loser in 2008, when he wrote that in a scant four decades the country had gone from the assassination of Martin Luther King to the election of Barack Obama. “You would not be human if you failed to acknowledge this as a cause for great rejoicing,” he wrote at the time.
Four years later, there is little cause for rejoicing. The summary of the story notes that President Obama “has broken his promises," and "it’s clear that the GOP ticket’s path to prosperity is our only hope.” Ferguson writes:
Welcome to Obama’s America: nearly half the population is not represented on a taxable return—almost exactly the same proportion that lives in a household where at least one member receives some type of government benefit. We are becoming the 50–50 nation—half of us paying the taxes, the other half receiving the benefits.
Ferguson is author of the highly regarded The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, and so the bleak picture he paints of our financial condition, which he says is worse than we know, should carry weight with people who are not ordinarily hospitable to the GOP. Our financial situation is this bad:
The most recent estimate for the difference between the net present value of federal government liabilities and the net present value of future federal revenues—what economist Larry Kotlikoff calls the true “fiscal gap”—is $222 trillion.
The president’s supporters will, of course, say that the poor performance of the economy can’t be blamed on him. They would rather finger his predecessor, or the economists he picked to advise him, or Wall Street, or Europe—anyone but the man in the White House.
There’s some truth in this. It was pretty hard to foresee what was going to happen to the economy in the years after 2008. Yet surely we can legitimately blame the president for the political mistakes of the past four years. After all, it’s the president’s job to run the executive branch effectively—to lead the nation. And here is where his failure has been greatest.
On paper it looked like an economics dream team: Larry Summers, Christina Romer, and Austan Goolsbee, not to mention Peter Orszag, Tim Geithner, and Paul Volcker. The inside story, however, is that the president was wholly unable to manage the mighty brains—and egos—he had assembled to advise him.
Ferguson sees a president who consistently ducks the financial issue, most obviously in his setting up the Simpson-Bowles Commission to come up with solutions to our tax and revenue problems—and then ignoring its report. According to Ferguson, President Obama has similarly ignored opportunities in foreign affairs—most notably he did nothing while Islamic thugs were beating youthful revolutionaries in the streets of Tehran. He has cost the country myriad chances to obtain intelligence by the “uninhibited use” of assassination by drone (which the public mistakes, says Ferguson, for a strategy).
And here is the zinger:
t is a sign of just how completely Barack Obama has “lost his narrative” since getting elected that the best case he has yet made for reelection is that Mitt Romney should not be president. In his notorious “you didn’t build that” speech, Obama listed what he considers the greatest achievements of big government: the Internet, the GI Bill, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hoover Dam, the Apollo moon landing, and even (bizarrely) the creation of the middle class. Sadly, he couldn’t mention anything comparable that his administration has achieved.
Now Obama is going head-to-head with his nemesis: a politician who believes more in content than in form, more in reform than in rhetoric. In the past days much has been written about Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s choice of running mate. I know, like, and admire Paul Ryan. For me, the point about him is simple. He is one of only a handful of politicians in Washington who is truly sincere about addressing this country’s fiscal crisis.
Ferguson met Paul Ryan in 2010 at a dinner in Washington to discuss the nation’s fiscal condition. To say he was impressed is an understatement:
Ryan blew me away. I have wanted to see him in the White House ever since. …
But one thing is clear. Ryan psychs Obama out. This has been apparent ever since the White House went on the offensive against Ryan in the spring of last year. And the reason he psychs him out is that, unlike Obama, Ryan has a plan—as opposed to a narrative—for this country.
Mitt Romney is not the best candidate for the presidency I can imagine. But he was clearly the best of the Republican contenders for the nomination. He brings to the presidency precisely the kind of experience—both in the business world and in executive office—that Barack Obama manifestly lacked four years ago.
This may be Tina Brown’s most outrageous cover yet!