With the first calendar year of the Obama presidency at a close, the White House should reflect on its successes and failures over the past year - and gear up for 2010. There's nothing like a new year to set things right; an opportunity to double your efforts in some areas, or to refocus and completely change course in others areas.
President Obama should be pleased with his accomplishments to date. He has brought competence, intelligence and sensitivity back to the Oval Office. Further, he is able to juggle various balls at the same time, which is important, given the huge mess his predecessor left for him. And the United States is once again a respected member of the world community. But the next 12 months are crucial. This historic and potentially great presidency will become a one-termer unless some drastic changes are made for the coming year. So, President Obama should make the following New Year's resolutions:
1) Create a jobs program in America, not Afghanistan
With massive unemployment and an epidemic of home foreclosures, the economy is foremost in the public's mind. People need jobs. They witnessed how the government coddled Wall Street, and rewarded wealthy bankers for wrecking the economy. Now they wonder if and when they will receive their own personal bailout.
Job creation must be a top priority on the White House agenda. As the economy will not repair itself, the government must step in with a massive jobs program, New Deal-style. But with the nation hemorrhaging precious billions of dollars to fight unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. is less able to tackle its domestic crises.
2) Throw Rahm Emanuel under the bus
Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff, has not served the President well. And he is the target of progressive groups because of it. They hold him responsible for the administration's abandonment of a government-run, public health insurance option, and the industry giveaway masquerading as health care reform that has emerged from Congress.
Emanuel reportedly told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to cut a deal on health care with renegade Senator Joe Lieberman, who is a troublemaking thorn in the side of reform-minded Democrats. In addition, Emanuel was instrumental in cutting a deal with the pharmaceutical industry, in which the drug companies agreed to cut prescription drug costs to seniors by $80 billion. In return, the White House agreed to oppose the importation of cheaper drugs into the country, and a reform measure allowing the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare recipients.
President Obama came to Washington in the image of a change agent who would upset entrenched interests. Concerned more about Machiavellian expediency than what is right, Emanuel wants to accommodate those entrenched interests. This tactic threatens the legitimacy of the Obama administration, which is why he must go.
3) Abandon this bipartisanship folly
From the outset, Obama made overtures to conservative Republicans in an effort to bridge the ideological divide. Working together in a spirit of bipartisanship is a worthy and noble goal, provided you have a willing partner.
Although Obama placed some Republicans in cabinet positions, the GOP as a whole has had nothing on their minds other than the destruction of this presidency. This sentiment was reflected by Senators Jim DeMint and Joe Wilson of South Carolina. DeMint called health care Obama's Waterloo, and said that if Republicans could stop healthcare reform, it would break the president. Wilson interrupted the president's September address before Congress by shouting "You lie!" Meanwhile, Obama has wasted precious time trying to court the support of a few Republicans, with little to show for it. Therefore, he must ignore the national sideshow that the Republican Party represents, and concentrate of what the people elected him to accomplish.
4) Grow a backbone and stand up for campaign promises
During the campaign, Obama was a symbol of change who represented bold, new leadership. Now with the reins of power in his grasp, the president has lost some of his luster. Unfortunately, he seems reluctant to stick out his neck on the issues for which he so eloquently advocated during the election. Refusing to weigh in on important legislation - and opting to allow a dysfunctional Congress to carve out the details - the president apparently is willing to accept whatever he is given. Obama must take true ownership of the government, and use the bully pulpit to shape policy in his image. How does he plan to win battles in the future if he refuses to fight for his signature issues, like health care?
5) Don't forget who brought you to the dance
President Obama's supporters, particularly the progressive base, had a great deal riding on his election. Now, their enthusiasm has dampened because they have been taken for granted. Moreover, if the administration continues to disappoint liberals by failing to deliver on their issues, low turnout from the base will damage the Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections. We won't even discuss Obama's 2012 reelection bid. The White House must come correct on a host of issues, including financial regulation, green jobs, and the environment. The base was there for Obama in 2008, but now he must show that he will stand by them.
It isn't too late yet, but much time has been wasted already. The new year can be a fresh start for President Obama, should he choose to take advantage of it.