Obama's Mistake

I read over the weekend that President Obama might try to help Democrats in the Congressional election by staying quiet. After all, since he has been in office for, what, 17 months, some are beginning to blame him for the consequences of a 30 year debt binge by Generation Greed.

That would just extend the biggest mistake he has made. Obama built up a huge political organization during his campaign that attracted donations and support from millions of Americans. I had expected, with his campaign team joining him in Washington, that the campaign would be extended and its supporters mobilized to confront the country's problems. By, for example, providing support to members of Congress who supported his plans, and challenges to those who didn't. It hasn't really happened.

It has sometimes seemed as if the Obama revolution ended with his election, rather than started, unlike (say) the Reagan and FDR revolutions. I say that despite the passage of health care reform and financial reform, significant but muddled achievements made incremental by the decision to placate too many vested interests. If he believes in them, he needs to defend them -- and contrast them with the reality of the prior policy. Otherwise, his opponents will simply contrast current conditions -- in the middle of a recesion -- with a fantasy world.

Taking office in a crisis, FDR continued his campaign with a series of fireside chats on the radio -- the sole mass media of the time that allowed direct communication between the President and the people. I'm sure President Obama has a radio address on some station sometime. But adjusted for the growth of information and communication technology, that would be the equivalent of FDR giving a few speeches to a few thousand people in a few cities and going home in 1933.

Health care reform appeared dead before the President decided to go to the people and push again. He ought to be explaining what the situation is, how it came to be that way, and how things might turn around. If he has a clue about this, the President certainly can gain the forum to make his interpretation stick.

And he should not just talk about what the government has done to turn things around, but what people and business need to do to turn things around for themselves and their communities. I don't hear him doing that. The President is a leader of the country, not just the CEO of the government.