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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/9/09

Get Obama

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Even in crisis, he’s all incremental, all the time.

It is true, of course, that a bold leader risks getting in serious trouble if he or she gets too far out ahead of the public. I don’t think that’s such a great problem here, as the public is really in the mood for – what did he call it, during the campaign? – oh yeah, “change”.

More importantly, even when that is not the case, presidents have a remedy for this conundrum. It’s called selling your policy. Sometimes you have to create the demand for the product you’re offering. Sometimes you have to educate people about problems and threats they’re not seeing, before you can get them to subscribe to your solution.

Obama has all the conditions necessary to be a bold and historic president. He came to office at a time of great and multiple crises. He promised change and the people gave him a mandate for precisely that purpose. The opposition is in complete disarray, and is rightly blamed by the public for the mess Obama has inherited. People are frightened and hurting, and looking for relief. And, for the first time in a long time, they’re overtly looking to government for that relief.

To be honest, he really doesn’t have to market bold changes on the environment or healthcare or foreign policy in order to win the support of the public, but he could surely increase that support significantly if he did. Ironically, it seems to me that this president, who has the most effective potential bully pulpit skills in a generation if not a century, has been largely AWOL from the stage. He is much more popular with the public than his policies are, and that’s because he really doesn’t advocate for his policies much.

The biggest irony, however, is that the fate of his presidency is tied to the fate of those policies. If half-measures produce half-solutiuons or non-solutions, it’s Barack Obama himself who will be punished by voters. I mean, how hard is it to imagine that by 2012 not much has changed in America besides the size of the national debt? The economy is still anemic, the military is still stuck in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestine conflict is still stagnated, there is no national healthcare system, nothing has been done about global warming, etc., etc.? Does that seem so completely implausible at the rate this administration is going? Indeed, does it even seem improbable?

And what would be the outcome of such a scenario? Most likely it would be a presidential election pitting a vicious Republican candidate against a mealy-mouthed incumbent self-saddled with a lousy performance record to defend before a dissatisfied electorate. Even if Obama only cares about winning re-election for himself, he should really consider turning his boldness quotient up to eleven (or at least three, for chrissakes), before it’s too late.

Because, I take it back, after all. The biggest irony may just be this: That Barack Obama’s instinct for the capillary could be the one thing that has the capability of reaching deep down into the toilet bowl, down through the pipes and into the sewer system, and dragging the sh*t-encrusted Republican Party back to the surface, miraculously offering it a magical elixir of renewed viability despite its own immensely successful attempt at party suicide.

And, come to thing of it, given where the GOP is today, an accomplishment that huge would represent a historic and monumental achievement for this or any other presidency, after all.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
 
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