On Economy, Obama's Micromanager-in-Chief

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2009 7:51 AM CDT
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner looks towards President Barack Obama as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
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(Newser) – Past presidents have taken a big-picture approach to domestic policy, but Barack Obama is different—every day, he wrestles with the smallest details of health care, employment, and financial regulation. At the White House daily economic briefing, a new ritual modeled on intelligence seminars, the president peppers advisers with questions and delves deep into the minutiae of economic affairs. The Wall Street Journal looks at the merits and flaws of a micromanaging presidency.

In briefings, Obama often pushes for more views. Last month, for example, in a meeting about derivatives regulation, Obama told his team, "Get me some other people's opinions on this. I want more than what's in this room," Rahm Emanuel tells the Journal. The result, the paper says, can be paradoxical: an ambitious agenda dialed down by last-minute caution. "He's thinking big," says one observer, "but being cautious." Says one CEO who met with the president, he's spending too much time on issues like executive compensation: "If we spend too much time focusing on things like this, we are just going to get this vast mediocrity where things don't move ahead."