Ben Buchwalter


Governing the Difficult Choices
January 21, 2009, 1:04 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Barack Obama, General Politics, Health Care | Tags: , ,

I guess its time to get things started. Unfortunately, though, that does not mean the anticipation period is complete. It just means that the anticipation is more pressing. At any moment, President Obama could do something huge!

He has already issued the order to stop all trials at Guantanamo Bay. And in his first foreign call as President, Obama reached out to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the leader of the moderate Fatah party. And it looks like Obama is going to ask for even more money for the economic stimulus package, now nearing $900 Billion.

And that’s in 24 hours, many of which were filled with dancing and (I’d imagine) sleep. That makes you wonder what will happen in the remaining 1,460 days of Obama’s first term.

Politico says be afraid, be cautiously afraid. Though I don’t agree with many of their reasons to be skeptical, this one stood out: beware “the herd instinct.”

But the instinct for bipartisanship overlooks an inconvenient fact: Some of Washington’s biggest blunders occur when the government moves to do big things with big support. Bush won the much-regretted Iraq war resolution of October 2002 with strong Democratic backing.

The current economic crisis produces similar pressure to get on board the train — never mind for sure where it’s going.

While I think that a large, wide-reaching stimulus plan must pass for us to have any chance of surviving this economic downturn, I hope that our leaders will strive for the best plan, even if its not the quickest or the most politically safe.

I was expecting the inaugural address to ask Americans to sacrifice in order to help weather this storm. After 9/11, former President Bush wasted enormous political capital to unite Americans behind a common purpose. Instead of asking us to sacrifice for our country, he told us to shop. And he has been widely criticized for it. I think Obama is faced with a similar opportunity to unite Americans through simple sacrifices for their country.

But will a request for sacrifice, when actually made, be lauded or rebuked?

Ultimately, it depends on what kinds of sacrifices are requested. In Politico’s The Arena today, policy wonks and writers guess what kinds of sacrifices President Obama might ask for. This entry, by a contributing editor for the Daily Kos, stood out to me:

The main thing to understand is that fixes will not be quick. That means unemployment isn’t instantly reversed. Race relations aren’t instantly made whole. Iraq isn’t instantly evacuated. Gitmo is not instantly closed. These things will be addressed. They will not be completed today or in the next 100 days. And since things aren’t so great as they are right this second, it will rightly feel like sacrifice to be patient and build for the long term.

Other sacrifices mentioned were doing away with 8-figure salaries on wall street and throughout the corporate world and enduring some uncomfortable changes to health care policy.

But a lot needs to get done. And even if the Obama administration hits the ground running, some important promises are going to have to take a back seat to the pressing concerns of today, including the economic stimulus plan and the turmoil in the Middle East.

But I’m ready to give more than patience; and I think lots of others are too.

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