Obama on Digging Holes and Filling Them


A couple of weeks ago Matt Welch noted Matt Taibbi's sharp New York Press critique of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who is prone to puzzling pronouncements like this:

The first rule of holes is when you're in one, stop digging. When you're in three, bring a lot of shovels.

President Obama seems to have similar trouble with this metaphor. Last week, while condemning Wall Street bonuses, he declared:

Part of what we're going to need is for folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint and show some discipline and show some sense of responsibility. The American people understand that we've got a big hole that we've got to dig ourselves out of—but they don't like the idea that people are digging a bigger hole even as they're being asked to fill it up.

First of all, have you ever tried to dig yourself out of a hole? Barring a journey through the center of the Earth, this is not a workable solution. Second, if you're in a hole and want to get out, why should you care that someone else is digging another hole, even if it's bigger? And in what sense is the hole dug by Wall Street bonuses bigger than the recession hole? Maybe Obama meant we're all in the same hole, and the Wall Street bonuses are making it bigger. Either way, though, if you're still in the hole, filling it up is not a good idea, although it may be an apt metaphor for the president's "stimulus" plan.