The Obama administration is getting off to nearly as rocky a start as the Clinton administration, and from where I sit it all has to do with leadership. There has been none, and it has hurt.
Senator Obama showed brilliance on the campaign trail. He was nimble, responsive, and sharp. He was everything that John Kerry had not been. When his opponents tried to use race as an issue to attack him he turned the issue back on them with one of the most eloquent speeches on the topic since Dr. King's death. When they attacked him on Bill Ayers or on his record he shined the spotlight back at them.
But lately he has seemed adrift. How on earth could he let the house pass a package so vulnerable to republican attacks? He wanted a stimulus package. He need to spend money on infrastructure, one public works, perhaps on a WPA style work program, but not on the NEA. Hey, I am a huge supporter of the NEA, but that is for a later bill, not the one that is supposed to be the center piece of your first hundred days.
And as Republicans have attacked he has wavered, as if he didn't know what to do. He stayed above the fray during the election, but attempting to do so now makes him look indecisive and passive. It allows the Republicans to control the spin cycle. Today he has barked back a bit, and it's been good. There seems to be a compromise on the stimulus package, but it still looks weak. As the job numbers get more and more and bleak and we keep giving more and more tax cuts and less and less spending, which is the only way to stimulate the economy, we are slipping more and more toward recession. Hey republicans! Read your Keynes and stop drinking the Regan/Friedman tax-cut Cool Aid.
And can we all say it loud and clear? THE REPUBLICANS ARE TRYING TO HURT THE COUNTRY! THE REPUBLICANS DON'T CARE ABOUT HELPING AMERICANS! THEY ONLY CARE ABOUT IDEOLOGY AND POLITICS AS EVIDENCED BY THEIR DANGEROUS FIDELITY TO TAX CUTS, WHICH DO NOT WORK!
It's like their strategy is being set by Rush Limbaugh, who said last month that he hopes the president fails--showing clearly that he cares more about returning his party to power than he does about the nation. Shame on him and shame on every republican in the house and senate. If our legislature keeps acting like this we are going to vote more and more power to the President and we will have an emperor. Ok, not really. Hanna told me to write that part, but it sounds good.
I don't think Obama will end up what the elephants predicted and what they are trying to force him to look like, all style and no substance. But I do think he needs to right the ship. Bill Clinton started out with two big failures on Gays in the military and universal health care, and ended up with the most successful presidency since Eisenhower. Obama can still be great. But he's got to start now.