With week one of the Obama administration behind us, do we have much of an indication in which direction he hopes to lead?
Wanting the new president to succeed and wanting his agenda, laid out in bits and pieces during the campaign, to succeed can be mutually exclusive events. But President Obama, an orator whose skill just very well may be unparalleled in current American politics, now has to have his actions meet his words.
He has asked to build bridges, to cross gulfs, to reach out to those among America’s power circles who hold divergent views from his. He has, on several occasions, praised his defeated foe, Sen. John McCain, the former pilot and prisoner of war who doubtlessly has no more runs for the White House under his wing.
On the eve of his historic inauguration, the then-president-in-waiting paid homage to McCain’s long track road of bipartisan work. Funny how Obama and his crew castigated and pilloried McCain for voting with President Bush 80 percent of the time over the course of eight years, and now Obama extends an olive branch by praising his courage in crossing party lines on votes and legislation — something the former junior senator from Illinois’ own resume glaringly lacked.
Obama’s skillful campaign team adroitly placed the albatross of the Bush administration around McCain’s neck. The result was a narrow margin in the popular vote but a decided majority of the electoral college — you know, the votes that really count — because of wins in some key states, even some states that hadn’t gone to the Democrat column in a generation or longer.
That the country wanted change is a theme Obama seized upon and rode all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue. But just what change are Americans looking for? Do they seek an end to partisan bickering and sniping? If that’s the case, it ain’t likely to happen. At least they are not going from one chamber to another to smack each other upside the head with a cane and nearly beat another to death, as South Carolina Rep. Preston Brooks did to Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner in 1856.
But Obama — who is smart; mental lightweights don’t teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago as our current president once did — has promised to break from politics of the past. He has cast his own gauntlet. He embraced this avenue of approach just as eagerly as he attempted to avoid any questions of race during the campaign — he gave just one speech on race, so while he is America’s first minority president, he also may be the first post-racial president, ushering in the era of someone not being judged on the color of their skin but truly on the content of their character.
And as former President Bush adviser Mark McKinnon, in remarking on the mood of the flight home to Texas aboard what is normally Air Force One for “The Daily Beast,” said “all offered their enthusiastic applause for the new commander-in-chief.” Even with some sore feelings on some of the barbs and grenades tossed the former administration’s way in the inaugural address.
McKinnon also made this observation, regarding the 43rd president and the 44th president: “He has gotten to know him during this transition period and he has a pretty good gut for people. His gut tells him Obama has what it takes to be a successful leader. Not yet tested. Not yet proved he is willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions. But the potential is clearly there.”
His current stimulus bill is certainly meeting with unpopular sentiment, especially among the Republicans he is trying to court. Funny how the Bush administration was savaged on its free-spending ways yet there’s little national discourse on where the money is coming from for this far-reaching “stimulus” package.
Say what you will about the newest ex-president — he and Congress spent money like an Aegis-class cruiser full of drunken sailors; in the race to find the veto pen or WMDs before the end of his term, the veto pen won, but not by much; and that his trust and loyalty, ordinarily two very worthy traits, may have put him and the nation between Iraq and a hard place among the world because of the advice of his subordinates — but the nation better hope that this time, he’s right.