Small Bore Politics

by George Kennedy on August 29, 2011

Small Bore Politics

The president is exhorting us to lead by contacting our Congressional representative. Well, we can do that, but what is he going to do beyond more speeches? Don’t tell us what someone else needs to do, least of all Congress. You have the bully pulpit but you refuse to use it – the most powerful weapon in your tool box. Try leading! This country is crying out for leadership and people will take it where they can get it. You model yourself after Lincoln but, he like Roosevelt, stood their ground on issues that mattered.

You are finally talking about jobs, but specifically what? Get specific, granular. Put some bold proposals on the table with costs that people can wrap their heads around. That is what they want. Force the Republicans to not only defend their objections but force them to be detailed – beyond the slogans. Force them to debate on your terms, not theirs.

Politics is often about perceptions. Your political advisors suggest there is nothing to be gained by changing your image; that your emphasis has to be on proposals that meet a bipartisan framework. If there are two words we weary of hearing, they would be “compromise” and “bipartisan.” I should also add “balanced.” Truth is, you do not fight to achieve any of them. The Tea Party and their Republican supporters do not like you, they say so, and they are not interested in working with you. Get over it! Worry about the rest of us.

Unless Americans perceive you as the leader they want you to be, the leader they need, that they can respect, that will fight for them, they may find it difficult to vote for you the next time. If Perry survives his vetting, it is conceivable that he will do to the Democrats what Reagan did to them in 1980. Reagan projected strength, a candidate with a simple but credible vision, themes that inspired and he succeeded. It was not all about policy, it was about projecting a shrewd, vital image.

Mr. President, you are a great guy seemingly more concerned about being the rational guy in the room but the room is in chaos. We expect you to lead. Energize us! It can work. Don’t give Perry a pass on his record. Force him to explain why policies of dubious worth in Texas will be disastrous for the country. Set the terms of debate or you will be invited to the party once the menu has been set. We want more than that!

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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