Education of a president

Our view: The challenges facing Barack Obama are not unexpected

his responses so far show he's recognized that governing includes sacrifices

March 26, 2009

It's been a tough week for President Barack Obama, who has found himself juggling many competing priorities, beleaguered by congressional Democrats as well as Republicans and forced to acknowledge that his campaign promise of middle-class tax cuts and other goals laid out in his first budget proposal may not be quickly achieved.

But if Mr. Obama was hammered by the populist fury set off by the payment of $175 million in ill-deserved bonuses to gambling traders at AIG and shocked by a projected multi-trillion-dollar increase in the federal deficit, he has largely preserved his equanimity, revealing only a flash of frustration. That came the other night at his press conference when he was asked why it had taken so long for him to voice his anger at the bonuses. "Because I like to know what I am talking about before I speak," he tartly replied.

The challenges faced by Mr. Obama aren't unexpected. During the long presidential campaign, both he and his critics agreed that the issues he targeted for early attention - health care and education reform, energy independence and the looming crisis in Social Security and Medicare funding - would not be easily resolved. And when dealing with a global recession of epic proportions was added as a first priority, the bog of problems before him got much deeper.

Now, the president is wheeling, dealing and compromising just as he has repeatedly predicted he would have to, but he's holding to his core aims. And while critics assert that Mr. Obama appears to have been overcome by the challenges he faces, his fight has only just begun, and we like his style. He has quickly recognized and publicly acknowledged that the looming federal deficit will force him to defer achievement of some of his goals. Unlike former President George W. Bush, he has been direct in his acceptance of responsibility for a number of his administration's early missteps.

Mr. Obama still enjoys a generous measure of public support, and if he meets the recession's challenges effectively, we doubt that he will be condemned by voters for campaign promises temporarily derailed by the current economic turmoil. There are already early signs that the recession's downward course may be easing. Indeed, if the president continues in an honest, open and articulate pursuit of other reforms, he almost certainly will gain significant victories, for himself and the nation.

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