The AP has an article today: Analysis: Seven reasons for skepticism about Obama’s tasks.
I agree and disagree with it. Here’s what I agree with:
1. Having smart people in government doesn’t necessarily mean we get good decisions. That resonates with my hostility towards academic elitism!
2. Just because something’s bipartisan, that doesn’t make it right. This is important to me because there’s a lot of herd mentality going on right now. “You shouldn’t criticize Obama!,” people imply. “You need to be a good citizen and get behind your President.” One problem I have with this, of course, is that many of the same liberals who feed us this line weren’t so charitable to George W. Bush when he was President. But I can poke holes at the other side’s inconsistencies all day, as the other side can attack the G.O.P.’s inconsistencies. The more serious issue I have with the current herd mentality is that it silences criticism, which is necessary to keep Obama from making poor decisions.
Here’s where I disagree with the article:
1. I think it underestimates the power of charisma and rhetoric when it claims Obama relies too much on his speech-making ability. Reagan used both to his advantage when he was President. Sure, he made tough decisions and gained allies in the Congress, but he also appealed directly to the American people. When Reagan asked Americans to write their Senators and representatives, they did, and Reagan got things done as a result. Similarly, Obama should use his ability to connect with the American people.
2. I agree that we shouldn’t be bipartisan just for the sake of being bipartisan, and I think that criticism is necessary for good government to exist. At the same time, it would be nice if our leaders worked with each other rather than trying to score political points by attacking the other side. There needs to be some flexibility in both camps.
I think back to the health care debate in the 1990’s. Various people were offering alternatives to Hillary’s plan, but Hillary rejected them because they did not cover everyone. Some covered as many as 90%, but Hillary would not budge. Then there was Phil Gramm. While others were proposing compromises, Gramm boldly proclaimed that Hillary’s plan would pass over his cold, dead political body. He didn’t propose anything to help solve the problem. He just opposed Hillary’s plan. And he’s cited that as an example of his commitment to principle.
The result? Nothing got passed! And we continue to pay high premiums and health care costs as a result!
What I like about Obama is that he’s willing to listen to all sorts of perspectives: left, right, and center. I’m still concerned about group-think in this country because it can stifle opposing voices, but Obama has shown a willingness to be the President of all people.
At the same time, the article makes a good point: Obama is going to have to make decisions. He can’t listen to different ideas all day. At some point, he will have to act. I’m hoping he has the ability to do this, but I’m not too sure right now. He was inactive during the economic crisis (“If you need me, call me”). He’s changed his mind on so many things. I don’t think he should be rash, as Bush sometimes was in his decision-making. He’s just going to have to find a balance between listening to different perspectives and being decisive.