Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Video: Warren Buffett tells CNBC economy "fell off a cliff," Obama must make it "job one, two and three," GOP should back him

Monday, CNBC broadcast a fascinating three-hour interview with Warren Buffett, the so-called Oracle of Omaha and possibly everyone's favorit billionaire. Videos and transcripts of the entire interview can be found here.

The video above covers the first part of the session in which Buffett likened the economic crisis to Pearl Harbor and the challenge of battling back from it to World War II. A strong Obama supporter throughout last year's campaign, Buffett praised many of the President's actions, to date, but chided him firmly for failing to focus on this "war" relentlessly and to the exclusion of other, less urgent priorities until it is won. He also was critical of the Administration's failing to communicate a clear, confidence-inspiring message. At the same time, he called on Congress and the Republican opposition to unify around the Commander in Chief at a time of crisis.

Here are a few excerpts of Buffett's remarks from the first part of the interview:

The economy...we talked about it being an economic Pearl Harbor and how--what was happening in the financial world would move over to the real world very quickly. It's fallen off a cliff, and not only has the economy slowed down a lot, people have really changed their behavior like nothing I've ever seen.

And I've never seen the consumer or the Americans just generally more fearful than this. And they're also confused. And you can get fearful very quickly, but you don't get confident, you know, in five minutes. You can get fearful in five minutes, but you won't get confident for some time. And government is going to play an enormous factor in how fast it comes back. And if you're confused and fearful, you don't get over being fearful till you aren't confused. I mean, the message has to be very, very clear as to what government will be doing. And I think we've had--and it's the nature of the political process, somewhat, but we've had muddled messages, and the American public does not know what--they feel that they don't know what's going on and their reaction, then, is to absolutely pull back.

But how fast we [recover] depends enormously on not only the wisdom of government policy, but the degree in which it's communicated properly. People--when you have a Pearl Harbor, you have to know the nation is going to be united on December 8th to take care of whatever comes up. And we have little squabbles, otherwise we put them aside and everybody goes to work on defense plans, we start building planes, we start building ships, even though they're not going to be ready tomorrow, people join. The Army doesn't blame the Navy because there were too many ships in Pearl Harbor, and it shouldn't have happened. The Army doesn't say, `Well, it was your fault, so we're not going to send our troops.' None of that sort of thing. We got united, and we really need that now.

And so you didn't have--start congressional hearings on December 8th, you know, that were going to last for weeks while all of the commanders and the various people were in various ways pilloried or taunted or whatever about `Why in the world did they let this happen?' and the Republicans didn't say, `You Democrats have been in since 1933, and it's all your fault.' None of that. I mean, people said, `We've got to get something done.' And they--and they trusted their leadership to do it and put aside mostly the partisan stuff

And, Joe, it--if you're in a war, and we really are on an economic war, there's a obligation to the majority to behave in ways that don't go around inflaming the minority. If on December 8th when--maybe it's December 7th, when Roosevelt convened Congress to have a vote on the war, he didn't say, `I'm throwing in about 10 of my pet projects,' and you didn't have congress people putting on 8,000 earmarks onto the declaration of war in 1941.

So I think--I think that the minority has--they really do have an obligation to support things that in general are clearly designed to fight the war in a big way.

And I think that the--I think that the Republicans have an obligation to regard this as an economic war and to realize you need one leader and, in general, support of that. But I think that the--I think that the Democrats--and I voted for Obama and I strongly support him, and I think he's the right guy--but I think they should not use this--when they're calling for unity on a question this important, they should not use it to roll the Republicans all.

I think--I think a lot of things should be--job one is to win the war, job--the economic war, job two is to win the economic war, and job three. And you can't expect people to unite behind you if you're trying to jam a whole bunch of things down their throat. So I would--I would absolutely say for the--for the interim, till we get this one solved, I would not be pushing a lot of things that are--you know are contentious, and I also--I also would do no finger-pointing whatsoever. I would--you know, I would not say, you know, `George'--`the previous administration got us into this.'

Pretty smart and insightful guy, Buffett. What's do you think of his judgments? Post a comment.

1 comment:

  1. I think he's spot-on. America is scared, and we've been looking to the administration to restore confidence. That hasn't happened. We've been given more fear. We've been given a Democratic party who wants to do everything their way, but get the GOP to go along without complaint or dissent (whatever happened to the old Bush-era mantra "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism"?).

    We've got a serious situation on our hands, and the administration doesn't seem to be taking it seriously. They're looking for more ways to capitalize on the crisis rather than solve it, and that undermines confidence faster than anything.

    It's time for Obama to show the leadership he claims he is capable of--and he was elected for. Step up, show some resolve, find a middle-of-the-road approach everyone can get behind, and make some positive things happen so we can restore confidence.