Thoughts on big trends in technology, media, politics, and society. Oh, and kind of a diary except more public.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dear President Obama: Please Step Up

POTUS just sent out a mass email to supporters using the term "frustrated". He means his supporters are, or should be, frustrated. He blames Congress, obviously Republicans, for recent problems like the S&P downgrade. But it comes across as Obama himself expressing frustration. Well, you know what, sir, please just LEAD!

You, President Obama, dug yourself this hole. You blame Republicans for being ridiculously partisan, making it impossible for the White House to work with them. Perhaps true. But instead of dealing with the reality of their increased power, you continued to support a Democratic congressional leadership group PROVEN to be out of touch with Americans. The mid-term election results showed that, clearly.

At many points in US history, a mid-term election signaled to the sitting President he had to move to the center politically. Making lemonade out of lemons, such events became great opportunities to demonstrate an independent leadership -- detached from Congress -- that won over a majority of the electorate and led to the presidents' re-elections. Instead of a stalemate, the sitting President could right some of his own party's wrongs, with the legitimate defense that he needed to be practical.

To the average American, the rantings of Tea Partiers seem whacko. So you Mr. President can appeal as the anti-that. But the Big Government Democrats look like Luddites given the current global economic climate. So you need to be as distanced from them as from the Tea Party. Why are you so unwilling or unable to cut ties to the Washington insiders. Either your ideology aligns with them, which guarantees you will lose the next election by a huge margin, and you don't deserve the electorate's support. Or you're getting bad political advice on how you should be positioning yourself. I hope it's the latter, but you need to recognize your mistakes and change course.

You need to show a plan for jobs and the economy that is SOLELY the White House's plan, presented in stark contrast to right-wing AND left-wing alternatives. You're misreading that you need to work some kind of anticipated political compromise into what you propose. The average citizen assumes right now, cynical and bruised, that if Speaker Boehner has an imprint on the plan, the plan won't be viable. Just as much (and probably moreso), if Rep. Pelosi or Senator Reid are OK with what you're saying, the plan is dead-on-arrival.

You need to get out of Washington. You need to focus on winning over the business leaders of America, who tend to be willing to step away from political affiliations if they see benefits to their companies of acting independently. An acid test of whether you have a credible plan would be can you get Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz on stage with you to unveil a new direction for the economy. Not every major CEO is going to join his contribution-withholding effort, but you wouldn't find a single one who disagrees with the spirit of Schultz's stand.

As a President leading rather than constantly seeking political compromises, you would attract to your side every truly great thinker on the economy. They would work with you to fix this mess. They'd consider it an honor. But if you ask any of them to show up and Washington to join some kind of process involving incumbents who've proven incapable of taking action or even understanding our predicament, forget it.

Please, Mr. President, lead.

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