President Elect Obama has just completed a grueling 20+ months of campaigning. He deserves a vacation. What does he get instead? Now he has to find another gear. The work is just starting. Here is a short list of things he must do in the next 75 days:
1. He has to bone up on the politics of the world – immediately. Russia has already moved its first pawn, missiles to the Kaliningrad District. Pakistan is on life support – and they have nukes. Iran can’t wait for the U.S. to pull out of Iraq so they can move back in. Afghanistan was a hornets nest for the Russians, will be for us, but Mr. Obama has promised to make it his war. Europe’s economy is in far worse shape than the U.S. and Mr. Obama will need to convince them to join in any war on terror when they have too few troops and too few euros to want to help……. (the list is long and the complexities many).
2. He has to appoint his staff and his cabinet. Most of his staff choices can be simple job changes from campaign positions to the West Wing. The cabinet positions are a stickier wicket. For every appointment he makes, he will disappoint 3 or 4 others. If he is to succeed, each of his appointments will need to be the most qualified person, but, he must choose the one that brings the biggest constituency (or alienates the smallest). The choice must look like the best person without looking too partisan. In short, he will use up a fair amount of his ‘honeymoon cash’ before he even takes office.
3. Much like Mr. Bush after 9-11, he is inheriting a broken economy, or at least a broken financial/credit system. He must prepare a strong plan to heal the economy. He must tighten up mortgage lending but that will mean people losing their homes. Like Mr. Bush, there is almost no way to win with the economy. Most of the moves Mr. Obama needs to make will alienate one of his biggest constituencies: the working poor or Wall Street (yes, Wall Street was one of Mr. Obama’s biggest benefactors in the election campaign). The good news is that our economy is still better than almost any other on planet earth. That’s why Euros, Yuans, and virtually every other currency has been running to the Dollar for safety causing their values to drop 5% to 25% against our currency. The bad news is that a strong dollar cripples our ability to compete on the world market. The other bad news is that economic problems, especially in the third world, will foment unrest.
4. He has to learn to work with and unite the Democratic Party. And he won’t have the unifying hatred of George Bush to hold them together. Congress is made up of 435 strong egos. Just because the majority of them have a “D” behind their name, does not mean they will be easy to lead. How does he keep the NEA happy and raise education performance? How does he improve the economy and give more power to the unions?
5. He needs a strong plan to solve our problem of energy dependence. If he uses the Nuclear option he loses half his party. If he uses coal, he loses the environmentalists. If he kills corn ethanol as he should, he alienates the farm lobby. If he allows offshore drilling or drilling in Anwar, he loses three quarters of his party.
6. He wants to create a universal health care plan. There is no money for such a plan and it can’t be raised by increasing taxes only on the top 5% of earners.
7. His plans to redistribute wealth will eventually threaten most the true contributors to the society.
8. Oh, yes. He has to write an amazing Inaugural address. He needs to inspire the nation like Kennedy or Reagan. At least this is a job he has proven he can do. The others may be on the ‘earn-while-you-learn’ program.
I wish him well. He needs our well wishes and we need for him to succeed.