With the elevation of Austan Goolsbee to chair the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Obama continues move briskly to the center as he sets the stage for his eventual reelection campaign.
Having dispensed with the most liberal items on his agenda, like the nationalization of health care and the increase of spending by a couple of trillion dollars, the president is now presenting himself as a deficit hawk, champion of the middle class, and a tax cutter.
Goolsbee, who comes out of the conservative University of Chicago business school, is a moderate-liberal economist who backs free trade. “He seems to be the sort of person – amiable, empirical and reasonable – you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president, if such there must be,” wrote George Will in October 2007 as the Obama candidacy began its ascent into the stratosphere.
Goolsbee’s slippery claim Sunday that the “Summer of Recovery” that saw no recovery referred only to the “Recovery Act” – that is, the stimulus – should not be surprising to those who have heard his skillful management of words.
I listened once in awe as Goolsbee mercilessly destroyed Douglas Holtz-Eakin during a joint appearance in 2008. Rarely have I felt so sorry for someone on the losing end of a debate, so badly was Holtz-Eakin taken apart.
It was later that I understood why. Goolsbee won the national high school extemporaneous speaking championship, the national collegiate team debate championship while at Yale, and performed with an improvisational comedy troop while at the university.
That is, he’s good on his feet, and will probably take the lead in pitching the Obama economic program. And, you can expect more improvisational comedy with respect to the “recovery.”