Wednesday, March 18, 2009

This is the Army

I don't know if President Obama reads the letters to the editor in The New York Times, but I hope that at least someone in the West Wing saw today's paper.

Wever Weed, of Long Lake, Minnesota: " Memo to A.I.G. bonus-seekers: Your prima donna days are over; you are on America’s team now, and you are expendable."

Paulette Altmeier, of Cupertino, California: "President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived. "

The phrase "America's team," caught my eyes, and reminded me of what Irving Berlin wrote:

This is the Army Mr. Brown
You and your baby went to town.
She had you worried, but this is war,
And she won't worry you any more.

We haven't seen that spirit--the idea that this is a new day in which the old worries are recognized to be trivial, the old values will no longer serve, that we're all engaged in a national effort that will mean sacrifice from those of us who still have something left. The President has expressed something like that in his speeches, but he has not, at least so far, turned that into a philosophy that animates the response of the executive branch, much less the nation, to the economic crisis.

Perhaps we should not expect so much of a President who has been in office for only two months, but time is short. As that letter writer said, this is (at least potentially) Barack Obama's Katrina moment.

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