Obama steps up as life-skills coach
There he was, our president, on TV as usual, urging millions of Americans to refinance their homes by clicking on MakingHomeAffordable.gov. But wait! The first two hits on Google are for commercial sites and have nothing to do with his plan. It's best to go to WhiteHouse.gov to get to the government's site.
So President Obama has been adding a warning against scams in the home refinancing push, saying that anyone who wants money up front is not legitimate.
It's not easy being our national life-skills coach.
In two and a half months, Obama's reach into our psyches, our daily lives and our sense of emotional and financial wellbeing has been nothing short of phenomenal. And, strikingly, most of us are pleased.
A New York Times/CBS poll released a few days ago found that two-thirds of Americans approve of Obama's job performance. They report being more optimistic about the economy and the direction of the country since Obama took office. (That's the infamous right-track, wrong-track polling question that has gotten so many presidents in hot water. Only 15 percent thought we were on the right track as former President George W. Bush left office; it's up to 40 percent now.)
One day Obama is in Iraq, handing out awards to soldiers. The next he is promising a new take on our immigration woes. He has put thousands of miles on Air Force One, soothing allies in what the Bush administration disparagingly called Old Europe, in Turkey and, soon, in Mexico.
He reassures the world that the United States would never go to war against a religion (Islam) and that we are sorry for our past arrogance and heedlessness in shunning international institutions and espousing preemptive war. He is trying to remake the world's financial system, cut nuclear arsenals and convince the rest of the world America is the good guy but can't keep peace all by itself.
Europe applauded the part about a more humble U.S. but plugged up its ears when he talked about other nations sending more troops to Afghanistan or launching more robust stimulus plans.
At home, Obama is nagging us to get rid of our gas-guzzlers and buy new fuel-efficient cars made by the new, improved government-bailed-out carmakers. He wants us to reduce our carbon footprint and lead the campaign to save the planet.
Who does not approve of his message that parents should read to their children, make them exercise and give them healthy food? I fully expect that he will soon take a position on the new theory that the body's storage of brown fat from infancy for warmth may be a way to reduce obesity and that he will soon promote a national flossing campaign.
As might be expected, Obama's hands-on grasp of the bully pulpit has led to a debate in Washington is his plate too full (metaphorically speaking)?
One side argues he is leading us into dangerous territory where government is all things to all people and that his peripatetic approach to leadership is dizzyingly wrong.
The other side insists there are so many problems that he has no choice but to weigh in on as many as possible.
Then there is that old 100 days deadline: In less than a month the nation will give Obama a report card. If he has done too little or ignored a national crisis, he will lose clout, political capital and goodwill in one fell swoop.
So is Obama rushing to do too much at once? In ordinary times, possibly. But in extraordinary times such as these? Probably not.
Obviously, not everything will work. Perhaps a majority of his initiatives will not solve problems as he intends. But he has little choice. He has to try to accomplish as much as possible.
It has seemed the world has been spinning off its axis. Obama may not be Charles Atlas. But he's all we have to keep us from flying apart.
-- Scripps Howard columnist McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.