IT WAS BASEBALL pioneer Satchel Paige who warned: “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”
In the wake of the midterm elections, that’s one bit of advice that President Obama would do well to follow. If his presidency is to survive, he must look forward and must begin to make changes now.
But exactly what should Obama do, and how and why? Five simple suggestions:
1. Dump what’s left of the Chicago Gang. Rahm Emanuel’s departure was a good first step.
But too many others in the Chicago clique are still around. All pols like to be surrounded by trusted confidantes. In the rough-and-tumble world of politics, loyalty is an understandably treasured commodity.
But the president is different. He’s the only public official directly elected by all the American people. Those around him must be attentive to the wide variety of views of a large, diverse society. The president’s advisers must present a broad range options in open, vigorous debate.
So, it’s time for David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett and Robert Gibbs to depart. They’d do the president a favor by making room for some fresh advisers. If they’re unwilling to do that, they should be shown the door.
2. Lose the strut and the condescension. The president has a way of pushing himself up on the balls of his feet as he walks. I call it “the strut,” and I suspect I’m not alone in finding it oft-putting. Along with this strut comes an air of condescension.
Mr. President, those who don’t agree with you aren’t your enemies. And they aren’t misguided or distracted or paralyzed by fear or blinded by anger. (And they aren’t necessarily clinging to guns and religion, either.)
When you dismiss or trivialize “we the people,” you mock the very foundation of our democracy.
3. Get rid of the TelePrompTer.
The members of India’s legislature were astonished to find Obama reading from it as he addressed them.
It was the first time the device had ever been used in India’s Parliament House. As one Indian official put it: “We thought Obama is a trained orator and skilled in the art of mass address with his continuous eye contact.”
We thought so, too. But the president simply can’t seem to function without having his talking points projected in front of him. He’s addicted.
Why? As someone who’s written many speeches and teaches public speaking, I believe it’s a sign of insecurity. When you have to use a TelePrompTer (and speak from a script), you’re afraid of messing up.
If Obama is to be taken seriously, he must master the most common speaking style of the modern age, incorporating extemporaneous or impromptu remarks. If he can be clear and articulate without a manuscript, it will boost his credibility.
4. Bring the Grand Tour to a close. After the India trip, the president should stay home and tend to the problems at hand. That means bringing down the curtain on touring, and maybe even vacationing. It also means ending those frequent TV appearances. The president has been overexposed. It took us nearly eight years to develop Clinton fatigue. But Obama fatigue began to set in after only 18 months.
5. And speaking of Clinton, Obama should have a nice, long sit-down with the former president and elder statesman of the Democrats. Sixteen years ago, Clinton was in the same spot Obama finds himself in today.
Clinton faced a GOP House and Senate after the ’94 Republican sweep that was one of the largest turnovers in history till now.
But with surprising speed, Clinton shook up his staff and moved toward the center. He listened to new people and embraced new ways. And he became a relatively popular two-term president. So call in Clinton. And sit down and listen.
Mr. President, follow these steps and don’t look back.”
- Teleprompter…seriously…that is nothing but professionalism..should he have post it notes, 3×7 flash cards, or inked in list on palms instead? C’mon.
- Strut...puhleeeze….other President’s had a commanding walk. This President is just young with a firm musculature so that he can descend the steps of AF One without holding onto hand rails! When is the last time America has seen that? Those other Presidents were just old.
- Grand Tour? Since when is traveling the world to discuss serious foreign policy issues and strategizing with world leaders on the global economy a friggin grand tour. POTUS is working, representing America just as all other leaders of powerful nations do. This is his JOB. Not some grand tour.
- Chicago Gang… so now he has a gang instead of Presidential Advisors. I say dance with the one that brought you to the dance. Those folks out of Chicago had a game winning plan..toppled national veterans with 15 years of experience. His political ascendency was equivalent to a rookie going to the ProBowl. Don’t mess with success.
- WJC…Clinton did NOT find himself in this same position. He never had to deal with 24/7 cable with a FOX news total engaged in partisianship and an America consumed with the hate from listening to racemongering…NO, it is NOT the same
As for the quote from Satchel… Paige, IIRC despite being a far superior athlete in the Negro Baseball League, was not selected to be the first Negro in the American Baseball League because his temperament was considered far less tolerant than that of Jackie Robinson. Racism was so rampant that they knew Robinson was a better choice, despite him not having a record as superior to that of Paige.
In that sense, I prefer two of Robinsons’ quotes:
“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”