A political divorce for the president and his economic team?
Just got through skimming an article in the WSJ about how President Obama may be making some personnel changes in his administration that conceivably could mean that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers are ushered out the door after the November elections.
Hme….Wow. I don’t know. There so much going on and I am such a political novice that I just don’t know what to say. But it definitely looks to me that the president is playing defense as opposed to offense right now and I don’t know if it is a good thing. The thing is, I don’t know anything about sports either. So I can’t even use those metaphors….oh, but wait. I think once I was watching the playoffs and the commentator said that good defense wins championships. And he was right. I think that year, Kobe Bryant’s team won. They came from behind…but I’m not convinced its good in politics. I think in politics, you want to stay on the offensive.
If I could advice the president on this “divorce” what would I say? Hme…. well, I think I would say, Mr. President:
1. Stop playing defense.
2. Stop letting arm chair quarterbacks tell you how to run this ball.
3. A divorce may be necessary. But of whom? And is it the right time?
4. Step back. Bench yourself. You hit the ground running since day one and you are letting them run you into the ground. Stop. Take a time out. Sit out a few hours. Breathe. Think.
5. Ok. Now, after you have thunk, maybe, as coach (as opposed to point guard?) maybe you do need to bench some people. But should that be Tim Geithner? I don’t know. I can tell you this much: the economy may be out of the recession, but the little people don’t feel it. That is a big problem. But is Geithner to blame? Firing him may just add to the instability and the sense that things are not in control in Washington and in your Administration. And that is exactly what your enemies want. That is exactly why they are calling for you to abandon your team. Maybe you need to abandon some people. But consider timing. Consider the source of the advice. Consider other elements that my novice mind can’t think of. Consider whom you should abandon. Consider: Is this the right move? Bringing in new people means starting over with new policies and ideas but have you given the things you’ve done so far enough time to work? And will the new people add new ideas? Or make things worse? You don’t want to be running around like a chicken without a head. You are a heart beat away from that.
6. As head coach, when you look at all your players, what do you honestly see? Let me tell you what I see: some of the people around you are not your friends. They may eat and drink with you but they are not your friends. They don’t want you to make those free throws and those lay ups. Can you identify those people? They are the ones you need to get rid of, Mr. President. And fast. Because they want you to fail and they are working behind the scenes to see to it that you do fail. KNOW THINE ENEMIES. Do you know who your enemies are? Republicans are the easy answer. The right answer is more complicated. But, at the same time, you want to keep your enemies close…..
7. You biggest mistake so far? Failure to frame your presidency in these terms from day one: I AM THE PRESIDENT FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE. I WILL DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO MAKE RIGHT BY THEM. Why do I say that? Because, if you had, it would have changed your priorities totally. It would have changed the timing of everything you did. And how it was done. You needed to narrow your focus to the Little People. They put you in the White House for the very reason that they wanted “change.” Now, you may have over-promised. But you still could have made them feel better by how the stimulus was handled. Is that Geithner’s fault? I don’t know. You tell me. But nothing came out of that for the little people that they can feel right now. And they want to feel good right now. That is a big problem. What can you do? Not sure. But I do know this: IT’S NOT TOO LATE. If you are going to divorce anybody and get new people, they need to be people who can help you figure out how to win back the confidence and affection the little people. You can call it “Operation Win Back Main Street.” But you’ve got to get on this yesterday. And for the rest of your presidency, it has to be all about Main street. All about the little people.
8,9, 10 I will reserve for another time since you more than likely won’t listen to me anyway. But this is my advice for the president. In conclusion, Mr. President, stop playing defense. You are allowing others to shape the conversation. The Republicans and the press have shaped the conversation. And where is the rest of your team? Nobody is helping you. You are the only face out there. Where is your team? So much is at stake for the Democrats and they need to team up and double/triple team their opponents but they sent you out there to win a basketball game all by yourself. How in the name is that ever going to work? This is not rocket science. Not even Shaq can beat an entire team by himself.
And then, on the other hand, I’m thinking you need to stop responding to all the BS that is being thrown at you, and just lead by doing. Just put together teams with project managers and give them assignments that all relate back to your theme “the presidency of the Little People” and get some little people in the room telling you what the problem is with jobs. You can’t fix all the problems all at once. But if people have jobs, they will feel happier and they will love you again.
I don’t know, Mr. President. Did anything I just said make any sense? Oh, and another thing. You have to kiss and make up with Wall Street. Sometimes, you tend to be heavy-handed. Sure, they are bad. They were recalcitrant. But there is a “political” way to do things and to say things that will allow you to still be liked and respected. That is how other politicians do it. That is why it is called “being political.” You have to speak out of both corners of your mouth. And never to let your right hand know what your left brain is thinking….