Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Courage of the President

Lovechilde's recent post linked to an article by David Corn which argued, quite persuasively in my view (and that of others, including Rudy Giuliani), that ordering the attack on Osama bin Ladin's compound was a courageous act. Obama could have ordered the military to simply wipe the place out with missiles but then there might never have been certainty that Osama was dead. Yet ordering the assault was a huge risk. As Corn points out had any of a hundred things gone wrong it could have ended in disaster and Jimmy Carter would be the refrain of the day from the right. But the President judged the risks and rewards and took the bold course.

This boldness stands in sharp contrast to the timidity he has shown in the domestic arena. He has time after time declined to take on the Republicans, and instead has adopted their framing of issues like the deficit.

Now he has a moment in which he can act with the same decisiveness and courage in the domestic arena. The Republicans have tied themselves to the Ryan Plan. Polls show that the plan's proposal for trashing medicare is terrifically unpopular but that there is a huge group that is undecided about the plan as a whole. Between the unpopularity of the Ryan plan, the Trump sideshow that the Republican Presidential nominating process has become, and now the huge popularity boost that the death of Osama will certainly bring, Obama has a golden opportunity to turn the tables and present a decisive budget plan that addresses the real problems we face like unemployment, increasing income inequality, and a stagnant economy. My preferred solution is the People's Budget, but I have no illusions that the President will adopt it. What he does need to do is make a bold statement that those who have benefited most need to contribute more in taxes and that a great and rich nation will not prosper by abandoning the old, the sick, and the needy.

The first test of his courage will come this summer with the fight over increasing the debt limit. He needs to stand up the the Republicans in the game of chicken they are playing and make it clear to the American people the consequences of their game: a default by the United States Government. He is a great communicator when he is at his best. He need to combine those skills with the courage he demonstrated this week.

Be brave Mr. President.


Stephen said...

As of Sunday it’s more than self-evident that Obama doesn’t lack for nerve or courage. Obama placed his prestige, his presidency, and re-election prospects on the line for a kill-and-capture mission that, I think we’ll agree, was of far less national urgency than getting our fiscal affairs sorted out. Killing bin Laden was a HUGE wager! The guy’s got some serious stones. He bet it all!

His now-burnished commander-in-chief bona fides, however, will not lessen the recalcitrance of a Republican party steeped in Tea Party voodoo economics. So, going forward, should Obama appear to be waffling with the Republicans over the budget, can we really assume that it’s for lack of decisiveness? Has he really just been holding out for the right moment to show more spine to his opponents? Has he been sticking his finger in the air all this time waiting for a stronger gust of air at his back?

Or is it possible that he’s never been weak-kneed but, rather, simply not the progressive you/we imagined and hoped he was? During the campaign Obama often said of himself that may be skinny, but he’s tough. I scoffed at that self-assessment after what appeared to be serial political concessions to the Republicans. After Sunday, though, he’s convinced me that he is tough – and that he is who he is.

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