Our Immature President
When I was a young man, I worked as a consultant in the health care industry. I was technically competent, armed with what I believed to be irrefutable data, and confident that I was right. So I frequently and enthusiastically butted heads with other managers, and sometimes even with my superiors. But I didn't have line management control over implementation of my recommendations, and I was often disappointed with the longer-term results. I kept at it, maturing both as a consultant and as a man. And years later, I understood that instead of fighting for 100% of what I wanted, it was often more effective to work things out with others and shoot for, let's say, 70% of what I wanted. This applied even when I had more "power" than the managers of a problem department.
As the newly elected president, Barack Obama had two major opportunities to demonstrate leadership. The first was the passage of his stimulus package, and the second was ObamaCare. In both cases, he more or less shut out the Republicans. Armed with a Democrat-controlled House and Senate, he got 100% of what he wanted, and Republicans got nothing. Historically, most recessions last only a year or two, so perhaps Democrat leadership assumed they could spend/waste the taxpayer's money any way they wished, and by 2012, with the country back on track economically, they could credit "their" stimulus package with getting us out of the recession. ObamaCare, with all its extra costs and bureaucracy, isn't set to be fully implemented until after the 2012 election, and support was expected to increase after the bill's passage.
If the president had passed a truly bipartisan stimulus package, the bill might have been less wasteful, and even if it was ineffective, Republicans would have had to share some of the blame. There were enough "moderate" Republicans willing to pass some sort of major health care bill, which might have led to passage of an even more comprehensive health care bill in President Obama's second term. Bipartisanship would have lessened the effectiveness of both the stimulus and ObamaCare as campaign issues for the Republicans.
Although the president said otherwise, it appears that he wanted partisan bills. Sure, the president was the leader of the Democratic Party. But back in 2008, Americans had voted for a leader of not just the Democratic Party. They had voted for a president of the United States -- a president of all the people. They were hoping for someone who would at least try to bring us together as one nation through these tough times. Instead, they got a man who tried to hog political credit on two major issues; who hogs credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden; who acts like he's ashamed to be a patriotic American; who still blames President Bush four years later; who, through his silence, allows his minions to call his critics "racist"; who shows his disgust for "the rich," who, as a group, do pay their fair share; and who segments Americans into good and evil and worthy and unworthy.
President Obama arrogantly thought he was going to receive 100% credit -- instead, he now finds that he's getting 100% of the blame for the ineffective stimulus and for the unpopular ObamaCare plan, deservedly diminishing his chances for re-election.
And it doesn't do any good to argue that the president's opponents also were uncooperative or behaved badly. If a four-year-old kicks you, you scold the kid, but you don't start kicking the kid, because as an adult, you're at a higher level. In the same way, the president is at a higher level. Barack Obama is the president of the United States, the leader of our country, and he should have set the tone and the terms of the debate and led -- not members of Congress, not talk radio, and not the Tea Party.
If Mitt Romney takes office in January 2013, he will be faced with a harsher political environment than Barack Obama faced. Because of President Obama's leadership and because of the Democrat-controlled Senate and House in his first two years, the country, politically, has moved so far to the left that he must undo much of what has been enacted, and particularly ObamaCare. So instead of my 70%-30% guideline, President Romney will need to push for 90%-10%, probably throughout his first term.
ObamaCare must be dismantled. Some very specific health care legislation will have to be dealt with in President Romney's first term, but an all-encompassing health care plan should be avoided. Let things cool down first. Besides, economic growth should be the top priority. Note that I didn't say jobs should be the top priority. President Obama has targeted environmental companies (learning nothing from President Carter's wasteful synthetic fuel program) and auto companies for federal help in an effort to create or retain jobs. He has proposed short-term measures to help alleviate the jobs problem. But statistically, because of our varied businesses, it's more important to GDP, job growth, and job-retention that most businesses achieve gains, even if small, than to have a few industries achieve spectacular gains, even assuming that government bureaucrats can consistently pick winners. Private-sector job growth is an eventual result of a rapidly expanding, high confidence-level economy. And private-sector money is needed to fund government jobs and pensions.
The reason Mitt Romney lacks widespread enthusiastic support from conservatives, and the reason he had to fight so hard in the primaries against a flawed and Palin-less field, is the fact that President Obama has moved the country very far to the left, and the fear, right or wrong, that President Romney won't reverse that -- i.e., he may begin his term as a conservative, abolishing ObamaCare, for example, but then settle into a moderate-conservative, big-government, Bush-style presidency. After four years of President Obama, what non-establishment Republicans and conservative-leaning independents yearn for is a Reaganesque presidency.
Dan Nagasaki is the author of a book for teens and young adults: The Beginner's Guide to Conservative Politics. He can be reached at Dan@DanNagasaki.com.