This morning on “Good Morning America,” Bill Clinton said he thinks President Obama should assure Americans that we will surmount our economic problems. The gist was that Clinton thinks Obama has been too negative, although the former president did praise Obama for not coming in with a bunch of “happy talk.”

The attitude a president adopts during a crisis is one of those intangibles of leadership that does not become clear until after the president takes office. Many of us who voted for Obama did so out of a sense that, whatever his deficiencies in experience, he was the better man to handle hard situations. I, for one, expected him to be the kind of president who treats Americans like adults. Bush was full of false reassurances and loved to pat us on our heads and tell us everything was going to be o.k. I hoped Obama would avoid such drivel.

So far, I’ve been pleased with Obama’s attitude. While I disagree with the substance of the stimulus bill and think Obama could have worked harder to ensure a more bipartisan plan, I like that he hasn’t said the bill will magically lift us out of recession and we can all go back to buying flat-screen TVs now. He may have veered a little too much towards alarmism while pushing for Congress to wrap things up, but he didn’t have the deer-in-the-headlights panic that Bush had during the passage of TARP.

I’m not sure how much presidential attitude matters, but I know it counts for something. Obama, I think, has struck the right tone: serious and steady. Whether he has also been wise will be determined once we know the effect of the stimulus package.

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