When Joe Klein writes of President Obama in ways that read like Sean Hannity talks, and when Maureen Dowd writes of Hillary Clinton in ways that read like Sarah Palin thinks, we might ask: What would the great columnists such as Walter Lippmann and James "Scotty" Reston write about the president at a moment like this?
My guess is that Lippmann and Reston might remind readers that when former President Reagan reached a crisis point in his presidency, he named former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) to be his chief of staff.
Lippmann and Reston might also remind readers, who today read much verbiage about "the second-term curse," that Reagan, in his second term, achieved breakthroughs in Cold War history that historians will be praising in 100 years, and that former President Clinton, in his second term, created vast prosperity and tidal waves of jobs for which Americans remain greatly thankful today.
If a column could whisper into the ear of a president, my whisper to Obama would include this: name former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), one of the most experienced and connected figures in the modern history of our government and politics, to a very high-level position in your White House.
I am not suggesting a "White House shake-up," which would be unnecessary and unwise. The stampeding herd of the media will ultimately grow tired of the current chase. The gathering storm of overheated rhetoric will soon subside. The taxpayer-financed inquisitions of House Republicans will soon inspire a backlash, as they did for Clinton.
The Joe Kleins of the media herd and the Maureen Dowds of the media mob will calm down and realize that Obama's name should not be mixed with Nixon's on the dignified pages of Time magazine, and that implying a moral equivalence of Hillary Clinton and the Republican attack dogs hungrily seeking to hunt her down does not elevate the standards of The New York Times.
But I suspect Lippmann and Reston would be warning Obama that what happened at the Internal Revenue Service was egregiously wrong and potentially criminal, that the Justice Department invasion of the press was an aggressive overkill that raises grave issues of freedom of the press that are destructive to the Obama presidency, and that while Obama is not personally culpable for these wrongs, they flow from certain aspects of his governing style that must be corrected.
When Comedy Central's Jon Stewart runs a replay of various Obama statements in recent years saying, "I only learned about this from the media," Lippmann and Reston would conclude that these are not appealing, helpful or appropriate explanations from the president of the United States.
With the prospect of a long hot summer and his agenda hanging in the balance, the president should bring in reinforcements.
Daschle would bring to the White House a steady hand; a wealth of experience; a vast network of professional relationships of trust and respect; a credibility and clout with Congress and key constituencies with media and business leaders; and a unique knowledge of healthcare that would be indispensable at the critical moment of implementing the healthcare law.
I do not suggest any specific job or title for Daschle, except that the post should be very senior, full time and designed to last at least through the remainder of the current Congress and the 2014 elections.
Daschle was Obama's very effective campaign chairman in 2008. He is fiercely loyal to the president and Obama's vision of the presidency expressed in the historic 2008 campaign. He has long friendships and working relationships with key White House aides and the stature to privately speak truth to power, which is profoundly important to all presidents.
Presidents Reagan and Clinton accomplished great deeds after similar moments in their presidencies. Daschle could help Obama do the same.