The times that I agree with NYTimes supercolumnsists Mo Dowd, Paul Krugman and Frank Rich can be counted on one hand. Actually, they can be counted on one finger. Mr. Rich’s column in this morning’s edition of the Times is that first time. Here’s what I’m agreeing with:

A CHARMING visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by The Times last week: “President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.”

Six weeks ago I wrote in this space that the country’s surge of populist rage could devour the president’s best-laid plans, including the essential Act II of the bank rescue, if he didn’t get in front of it. The occasion then was the Tom Daschle firestorm. The White House seemed utterly blindsided by the public’s revulsion at the moneyed insiders’ culture illuminated by Daschle’s post-Senate career. Yet last week’s events suggest that the administration learned nothing from that brush with disaster.

It’s time that President Obama stopped walking around in the fantasy/rock star world that he’s currently in. People are noticing that his administration hasn’t produced any solutions to the nation’s biggest problems. That’s the biggest reason why his poll ratings are dropping.

Instead of going on Leno and ESPN, he should be working overtime to put a plan together that deals with the troubled assets on financial instituion’s book. Because he isn’t doing that, people are getting the perception that he’s more interested in maintaining a high profile than he’s interested in doing the hard work of returning the United States to being a prosperous nation.

Another major factor in the American voter’s loss of confidence in him is his irresponsible budget. It’s an ideology-driven budget. It isn’t a statement of the nation’s priorities.

I suspect that Paulette Altmaier speaks for most people in this paragraph of her LTE:

We are not interested in the level of outrage the administration is feeling, but in the effectiveness of its response. So far, it has come across as hapless and completely ineffectual. This Obama voter would like to be spared the speeches and the posturing on the Sunday morning shows; action is what is needed.

Democrats expressed outrage over the AIG bonuses was their attempt to minimize the PR hit they took for not paying attention.

Within 24 hours, Summers’s stand was discarded by Obama, who tardily (and impotently) vowed to “pursue every single legal avenue” to block the bonuses. The question is not just why the White House was the last to learn about bonuses that Democratic congressmen had sought hearings about back in December, but why it was so slow to realize that the public’s anger couldn’t be sated by Summers’s legalese or by constant reiteration of the word outrage. By the time Obama acted, even the G.O.P. leader Mitch McConnell was ahead of him in full (if hypocritical) fulmination.

President Obama’s promise to “pursue every single legal avenue” to retrieve the AIG bonuses is meaningless because the bill that the House passed isn’t constitutional. That’s becoming President Obama’s trademark.

The more President Obama dons his Ordinary Joe personality, the more people will wonder if he’s all showhorse instead of him being a workhorse. Right now, we need a workhorse president who’ll “focus like a laser beam” on our economic troubles instead of giving puffpiece interviews. Those interviews might keep him popular as a person but they won’t make his irresponsible policies popular.

If President Obama’s deer-in-the-headlights act doesn’t disappear soon, he’ll suffer a big hit PR-wise. We need a leader, a substantive person with coherent policies.

In short, we don’t need a showhorse president. We don’t need another Katrina moment.

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Cross-posted at California Conservative

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