Let’s Temper The Euphoria

by George Kennedy on September 22, 2011


Let's Temper The Euphoria

I would caution against the euphoria brought about by the president’s abrupt shift in tactics: calling out the Republicans when they scream “class warfare” (instead of just bleakly denying it), threatening a veto if the Gang of 12 presents him with a plan consisting of cuts in Medicare and Medicaid without new revenues and, now, demanding – not suggesting – that America’s wealthy should “pay their fair share.”

This about face may be no more than a temporary adjustment to the “Sturm und Drang” from independents and progressives. The customarily ignores Liberals, especially before a tough negotiation with conservatives.

President Obama needs to commit to his change in posture even though it appears out of character for the president we see daily. This country is in crisis mode and would not benefit from a temporary adjustment until the dust settles. Let’s hope the president has finally decided to lead. At the beginning of his quest for the presidency, he had to decide why he wanted to be president. I maintain the question arises again as he bids for a second term. There is too much at stake. This presidential race is a 14-month marathon, not a sprint. All President Obama has done, in my view, is catch up with the Obama of 2008.

Seven months ago, I said the Obama we saw then was the Obama who would do what he thought necessary to win reelection. Voter reaction beyond independents, in my view, was not a part of his calculation. Well, it is now.

Ron Suskind aptly notes Obama’s preference for “integrating policy options and political prognostication into a prepackaged solution – announced before the game even started.” That will not suffice for this phase of his presidency. We are in the “ugly” phase of the race and it will only get uglier. Republicans are desperate to fulfill Mitch McConnell’s dream of making Obama a one-term president and he ascending to the cherished status of Senate Majority Leader.

Retail politics is the name of the game if the president expects to consolidate his base, rebuild confidence in his leadership, motivate old and new voters to show up at the polls on Election Day, and forge agreement with the Republicans on real negotiated terms. Perhaps to this point, the presidency was still an idea with Obama. I don’t know. I do know what it has not represented to millions of Americans. Obama’s presidency now has to be a force that ignites passion, confidence, and hope for the promised tomorrow three years in the making.

Meanwhile, we have to keep the pressure on for fear the president will retreat to his bubble.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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