Sunday, January 24, 2010

Now what...?!

Quick! Close your eyes and name one significant consequential change in our socio-political lives that has come about since Inauguration Day 2009.

Don't open your eyes yet. Give yourself another few moments.....

Hmm. Nothing, right? Yep, same for me. Aargh !

A year ago, I down-shifted to a "benefit of the doubt" mode----let's give this smart, charismatic, liberal-minded, well-intentioned neophyte some running room. Surely, he'll be able to get traction with all the smart, experienced people he's bringing onto the team. The people voted for change, and change we will have. Good. We needed some; we needed a lot, frankly.

Are we on the brink of a failed presidency.....already? Hard to say. We hope not, for the sake of the country. And, yes yes, six months is an eternity in politics. Fine.

Yet, at some point, we ask, "where's the beef?" Three more years of great analysis, good intent, and thoughtful deliberation may be fine for the academy, or the legislature. But at the CEO level, the senior leader is accountable for outcomes, and so far....well, if you remove the nasty rhetoric and thin gruel of the prior Administration, what we have now amounts to a Whole Lot of Not Much. The Massachusetts election was about that, and the verdict for Obama: you're not doing the job, pal.

To be fair, the Obamites are grappling with a financial catastrophe at which we are still on the brink of potential disaster. The early warning signs of the double dip we have feared are just beginning to manifest. And the critical element---consumer confidence and spending---can be snuffed out quickly when faced with a Dow that slips back below 10,000 and a political establishment that appears paralyzed when bold action is the order of the day.

But if you feel like you're watching our senior leaders reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, well, then, you know where I'm at. Different nameplates, same casting agents. The Geithner's and the Summer's and the Bernancke's, the same folks that brought you the Catastrophe of 2008, still in charge. Same pedigrees. Same ideas, but with a twist. Same generals and command structure in Iraq and Afghanistan and the CIA and the FBI and Homeland Security and the list goes on and on and on.

Oops, I'm sorry. I forgot about the big new idea----health care reform. How's that going, by the way......?

If you want a user's guide to effective presidencies, thumb through an FDR biography if you have a few minutes. Poke around some of the speeches and fireside chats. And don't forget to glance through a chapter or two about the fierce opposition FDR faced at critical junctures. My takeaway: the indisputable power of single-mindedness and effective (bi-directional) communication.

Not much time left for us to learn whether they "get it". This is a Sarah Palin moment if ever there was one, god help us.

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