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The Enemy Within

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President Obama has been criticized for his outreach "across the aisle"- to the proponents of policies that have gotten us into this mess, i.e. Republicans and Neo-Cons.  Why consort with the "enemy"- that has publicly advocated for the failure of his administration? 

Because it is wise not to engage in a war on the homefront during this time of crisis.  But, has not this Republican enemy already launched its attacks?  Yes, as scattered tossers of "grenades."- Their ineffective missiles can be ducked as easily as their former President dodged the footwear headed his way.  The chaotic remnants of the GOP have seen their organized army decimated and weakened by the disasters of the Bush Administration.  Obama is carefully and astutely avoiding positioning himself as a lightning rod for Republican recruitment.

About ten years ago, I was hired to take on the leadership of an organization that had suffered under the authoritarian rule of a senior administrator despised by the majority of the beleaguered staff.  This administrator had survived the tenures of several leaders, some of whom had chosen to "take her on"- and aggressively oppose her management decisions and styles, providing her with opportunities to engage in battle--and win; and others who had elected a passive stance and allowed her to remain as the de facto supervisor of the operation. 

When I arrived, the organization had been fractured into Hatfields and McCoys, Hatfields being this ruler's loyalists, and McCoys the perceived victims.  My sympathies lay with the McCoys, but my strategy was to adopt an "across the aisle"- open and inclusive leadership that quickly marginalized the "Hatfield"- President.  Her attempts to "throw grenades"- and undermine me were ineffective as I professionally, diplomatically, and efficiently brought change to the organization.  Without a battlefield, or a raison d'etre, she retired within a year.  Had I tried to fight with her on her terms and with her tactics, I would have been the one shown the door.

Barack Obama is wise to choose bridge-building in these early months of his presidency.  Intelligence, capability, diplomacy, and professionalism will build capital for him among his allies, constituents, and opposition.  The "grenade-throwers"- (yes, I mean you, Rush) will hopefully become ever more less relevant as actual positive change allows Americans of all stripes to feel included in President Obama's vision.

But, as always, a caveat.  The enemy within.  Therein lies the risk.  Not from castrated Republicans like John Boehner parroting the same tired homilies of Dubya from behind the Bushes, but from neo-liberals whose economic and foreign policy advice has the potential to influence Obama's deviation from genuine liberal, progressive positions and initiatives in the guise of unity and centrism.  The President must remain true to a vision of equality, empathy, and peace as he and his advisors develop strategies to address our economic, social, and foreign policy challenges.  Otherwise, the lofty goal of change will end up being nothing more than "-lipstick on a pig."



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Jill Jackson is a practitioner of kindness and common sense. Unlike her cat, she prefers to think out of the box.

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