The first 100 days: Overexposure and crippling debt

Ordinary politicians cannot comprehend that it is possible for the public to see and hear too much of them. In this sense, Obama is very ordinary. A few leaders of democracies have understood the importance of being economical with their demands for the public’s attention. Charles de Gaulle believed that remoteness nurtures a mystique that is an essential ingredient of leadership. Ronald Reagan, an actor, knew that the theatrical dimension of politics requires periodic absences of the star from center stage. He spent almost an eighth—a year—of his presidency at his ranch. But when he spoke, people listened. If Obama, constantly flitting here and there, continues to bombard the nation with his presence, he will learn how skillfully Americans wield the basic tool of modern happiness, the TV remote control with its mute button…

The trajectory of Obama’s presidency might have been determined by what he did in his first 100 days. His budget calls for doubling the national debt in five years and almost tripling it in 10. If the necessary government borrowing soon causes a surge in long-term interest rates, the result will be the 1970s redux—inflation and stagnation. If so, the 44th president will be remembered not as the second iteration of the 32nd (Franklin Roosevelt) but of the 39th (Jimmy Carter).