“Instead of fearing what may happen, let’s prove that we have more than just the brains to govern — that we have the guts to govern.”
The Washington Post, Sunday, January 24, 2010
David Plouffe, campaign manager of Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008
In a widely reported clarion call to return to the roots of the purpose of this presidency, the former campaign manager of the Obama election, David Plouffe, hit the nail on the head. It can be debated what policies those guts will bring about, but guts are nevertheless necessary for anything to get done.
The President must choose between going left to become another FDR or becoming his more famous cousin, Teddy Roosevelt (TR) in his upcoming State of the Union Address. His temperament and intellect appear to gravitate him to TR and his party to FDR. Presidents lead, parties don’t, whether that be FDR (1933) or TR (1907). Therefore, if he wants to display political guts, his only option is to follow who he is and become TR, before 1907 can lead to 1929. He already has the Peace Prize, so it is time to deliver on it.
The annual ritual of the State of the Union is to report to the people’s representatives of the performance of the Executive. So, all branches of government are present as well as members of the president’s cabinet who are entrusted to carry out the agenda of the Chief Executive. The speech is typically a rundown of the performance of every cabinet department, with an emphasis on the weaklings. This year it happens to be the Treasury (the Office of Management and Budget and the National Economic Council). Its depletion is endless, as far as the eye can see, in both jobs and government revenues.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was timed to trickle in by mid-2010. There was a web site to track the trickle. Somewhere, it dried up along the way before enough jobs sprouted. New tax incentives for the middle class are being proposed in future budgets even before the current budget has passed, as if to prepare the people for living in the moment by borrowing from their own futures along with being asked to put up with a permanently higher level of joblessness, when instead the President should be challenging the Congress to make it a habit and a rule to pass budgets before the fiscal years they are intended for begin. The big picture about budgets, taxes and government reform will be drowned in the detail of meaningless numerical hopes and the sob stories of sacrificing Americans.
The pittance to the middle class seems to be a substitute for the government’s self-inflicted incapacity to do anymore with federal spending without also committing to an overhaul of how the government conducts the people’s business. The fiscal placation through the mirage of instant gratification of the nation’s vast but vulnerable middle class is to put off the necessary hard work of government reform which takes guts. It feels as though legislators are running the Executive branch.
The presidential mind seems to understand but cannot seem to do, whether it wants to be FDR or TR. Not doing what must be done sometimes can make all the difference between surviving or not, political or otherwise, especially when courage is not needed to act because the circumstances have created the context to act boldly. Action is a biological endowment.
Whatever may have been the timidity of the Fed in the past 4 years in how it dealt with the Congresses and the two administrations since 2007, the central bank cannot be scapegoated. Instead, it must be prodded to be bold to work with those who are entrusted with the power to be bold in the Congress and in the administration to make having guts a desirable quality for public officials if change is to be accomplished in Washington.