Now it's time to govern.
My greatest concern with President-Elect Obama is this: While he has proven to be a magnetic political presence, he has never shown himself to be a leader in the Senate on anything of substance.
When pressed by critics to name a single significant bipartisan accomplishment of his, Obama clumsily stammered responses about his work with Sen. Richard Lugar on rounding up loose nukes in the former Soviet Union (legislation that was, by the way, passed unanimously) or his supposed support of tort reform. Despite all this talk of post-partisanship and "change we can believe in," Barack Obama the senator was a markedly different man than Barack Obama the candidate. I worry about the power of Sens. Reid, Schumer and Durbin, and Reps. Pelosi and Frank. These are extremist liberals whose voting records largely mirror President-Elect Obama's, and will undoubtedly move even harder to push through their leftist agendas now that the Bush administration is gone from power.
Obama likely will be faced with the same quandary that President Clinton saw in 1992: Congressional Democrats who will have his back only if he follows their leftist agenda. As our buddy Dick Morris recalls, Clinton came to the White House intending to govern as a centrist, but was rattled by a meeting with his congressional "allies" shortly after his inauguration, where they insinuated that the new president would have their support as long as he didn't reach across the aisle.
As a result, Clinton lurched left, the move blew up in his face, and the GOP stormed back to power in 1994. When Clinton returned to the center, he was much more effective, cutting the federal bureaucracy in a way that Reagan would have been proud of, reforming welfare, executing free-trade agreements and, in perhaps his most notable accomplishment, approving a balanced budget.
While he is still reviled by many on the right because of his marital infidelities (the same people, as I've noted, who would give admitted philanderer Sen. David Vitter a standing ovation if he walked in the room), President Clinton can be proud of a number of considerable accomplishments during his two terms in the White House -- accomplishments that any Republican president would be proud of. And these things came to pass because of Clinton's willingness to reach across the aisle.
On January 21, 20o9, it will be time for President Obama to put his money where his mouth is.
Will Obama have the stomach to stand up to his so-called "allies" in Congress? Can he use the bully pulpit of the White House to govern from the center? Will he include Republicans in his Cabinet? Will he include them in major pieces of legislation, such as health care reform or a platform for energy independence? Will he really do away with the rampant partisanship peddled by both the Bush administration and Obama's congressional allies? Will he really choose to govern as a centrist, reaching across the aisle to really usher our country into a different kind of political era, as he has promised?
Or will he revert back to being the old, reliable liberal rubber stamp, as he was for three and a half years in the United States Senate?
I genuinely believe that if Obama chooses to work across the aisle to lower taxes, balance the budget, finish off the war in Iraq and fully claim victory in Afghanistan, solve the looming Social Security crisis and give the country a good start toward energy independence, he can cement himself as a successful president, and win re-election going away in 2012. Many of President Clinton's greatest successes were a result of reaching across the aisle and finding solutions to big problems that ailed America.
Come to think of it, that's exactly what this site is about.
So how will President-Elect Obama govern?
I know my prediction.
But as promised, I'll give him a chance.