WHEN the White House announced last week that President Barack Obama will be returning to the nation’s television screens on Tuesday for a prime-time press conference that will postpone the latest episode of American Idol – the talent show watched by 25m viewers – fans of the programme were quick to respond.
“Stop, please stop, Mr O, we can’t take much more,” one angry viewer wrote on an Idol-related website. “Not again!” complained another. “It’s the same speech he’s been giving for the past year.”
There were dark mutterings that by commandeering evening programming only a few days after he appeared on Jay Leno’s popular late-night chat show, Obama was “just like Fidel Castro [of Cuba] and Hugo Chavez [of Venezuela] – always on camera, always giving speeches and lecturing”.
The barbed response to the prospect of yet another mass-media dose of Obama’s economic prescriptions underlined the dangers the president is facing as he struggles to sell his recovery efforts to a country seething with anger and anxiety over the costs, effectiveness and potential abuse of the government’s trillion-dollar bailout programme.
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White House aides remain outwardly confident that Obama’s telegenic appeal will reassure Americans who were appalled by last week’s Wall Street bonus fiasco and who are becoming increasingly sceptical about the president’s so-called “Big Bang” approach to reviving a shattered economy.
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Sceptics were scarcely encouraged on Friday when the main US budgetary watchdog reported that Obama’s proposals would generate far greater budget deficits than the administration had predicted. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) prompted consternation with an estimate that deficits over the next decade would total $9.3 trillion (£6.4 trillion).