A day after saying he "absolutely" stood by Cabinet nominee Tom Daschle, the nominee quickly withdrew and President Obama took to the media to say that he messed up.
It takes a big man to do that, and we appreciate the president's candor.
He needs to be just as candid and courageous when it comes to his stimulus package - which, it is clear, has been hijacked by pork-producing Democrats in Congress.
Yet, the president who
promised to end business as usual in Washington has been oddly supportive of the perversion this bill has become. We fear the president's continued allegiance to an increasingly discredited "stimulus" package may end up being an infinitely bigger mistake than his support for Daschle.
Both he and the country may pay for it in the end.
In an interview with CBS's Katie Couric, the president made bizarre allowances for some of the outrageous spending in the House-passed bill - such as $6.2 billion for home weatherization.
"What would be a more effective stimulus package than that?" Obama said of the weatherization line item. "I mean, you're getting a three-fer. Not only are you immediately putting people back to work, but you're also saving families on your energy bills and you're laying the groundwork for long-term energy independence."
Wow. Now, that's a stretch.
He also says, "the package that passed out of the House I think in a lot of ways has been unfairly maligned. If you look at the over-arching package, it's got no earmarks in it." Note to presidential self: Wasteful spending doesn't have to be called "earmarks" to be wasteful.
Then there's the Senate version of the stimulus bill - which initially included a $246 million tax break for Hollywood producers to buy motion picture film. Unbelievable. Senators finally took it out, after noticing that movie box office receipts totaled $1.03 billion last month alone.
Also tucked into the Senate bill:
$650 million to help Americans buy TV converter boxes;
$1 billion for the 2010 Census;
$200 million for computer centers at community colleges;
$75 million for "smoking cessation activities";
$25 million for tribal substance abuse reduction;
$850 million for Amtrak;
$2 billion for a next-generation coal plant in Illinois that was defunded last year for being inefficient;
and hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of millions for federal agencies and buildings.
Let's at least be intellectually honest: Those aren't job-producing strategies; they're just spending.
President Obama says he told Democratic leaders, "Let's improve (the stimulus package). Let's make this a package that is big enough for the moment, and is really focused on the American people."
He's not being listened to. It's focused on government, pure and simple.
Of course, to convince his fellow Democrats of the bill's shortcomings, he needs to see them himself. And he doesn't appear to: "I also want to make sure that people don't get some notion, which I think has been systematically promoted out there," he said, "that this is full of silly spending, 'cause it's not."
Few Americans agree with the president on that: Public support for the package has plunged to 38 percent in a Gallup Poll.
"With more money at stake than the entire cost of the Iraq war," writes the San Francisco Chronicle, "the stimulus is meeting greater resistance and generating more controversy than Democrats envisioned ..." Meanwhile, the paper says, the package "is a defining moment for President Obama's young administration."
Indeed it is.