Now Obama Must Lead

obama and staffPresident Obama should reflect on what has gone wrong with his presidency. Then his economic speech after Labor Day, which should have been given long ago, and should be given before Labor Day, must be far bolder and more aggressive than any words this president has ever spoken about jobs.

America is a nation without leaders in an economy without jobs. We are a nation of citizens who hunger for action in a political system that refuses to act. We yearn for a president who will speak for the people of the nation with conviction, clarity, courage and compassion.

The failure of the president and Congress to take major action to create jobs for some two years is a dereliction of duty unprecedented in post-war economic history. The dominance of cutting spending in the short term, at the expense of the U.S. and Europe stimulating the economy, is an epic policy blunder of historic magnitude with potentially catastrophic consequences for the American and world economies.

Today major corporations hoard some $2 trillion they refuse to spend. Leading lenders hoard some $1.5 trillion of lendable assets they refuse to lend. Financial markets remain a casino in which some 70 percent of public stocks are held for less than 11 seconds while speculators enrich themselves while they create no wealth for the nation, and reward companies that destroy American jobs and export American prosperity.

Yes: President Obama inherited a mess. But it is unacceptable that in the third year of his presidency he still blames his predecessor and does bus tours to promote jobs programs that do not exist. The president should not be touting free trade deals and a patent bill as his major jobs programs. This is not merely false. It is farce.

Americans want an honest 50-50 compromise. This does not mean the Republicans get 50 percent of what they want, then the president surrenders the 50 percent that Democrats want, and then Washington departs for a long vacation.

The president must understand that he is the president of the United States, not another angry American with a pitchfork attacking those “people in Washington.”

The president is the leader of the Democratic Party, not some mythical post-partisan figure who answers Republican attacks by blaming Democrats in Congress alongside Republicans.

The president must always negotiate from strength, never from weakness. There will never be genuine bipartisan agreements if partisan Republicans believe he will always give in.

The president must articulate a clear and compelling narrative about why America faces an economic crisis, what Democrats stand for and how his presidency will make life better for Americans. Voters enduring pain do not want public-relations platitudes or bus-tour bromides.

Instead of blaming others, the best thing the president could do is loudly accept that he too has made mistakes. Obama would learn what Kennedy learned after the Bay of Pigs. His honestly would lift his popularity.

The president should belatedly and seriously consult with internationally respected economic thinkers such as Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich, Simon Johnson, Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman. It is natural they are held in contempt by conservatives. It is disgraceful they are treated with condescension and disdain by a Democratic president and his advisers, who urgently need creative ideas to lift the economy.

The president must understand that the base of his party should be respected as the heart of his support. Not demeaned as an imposition on his time. Not devalued as an impediment to his brilliance. Not disrespected with the insult that they will be forced to support him only because the GOP is worse.

I am proud of the heritage of Democratic presidents the nation has turned to when times were hard and jobs were scarce. President Obama should embrace this heritage, not fear it. The reason his poll numbers are down, while the jobless rate is high, is the hideous notion that a Democratic president should spend a third of his time acting like a Republican, a third of his time surrendering to Republicans and a third of his time distancing himself from Democrats.

I love this country. I love this country so much it makes my heart break and my blood boil when I see the suffering of the jobless and the misery of the poor, and I must ask a Democratic president to act like a Democrat.

Brent BudowskySomething has gone wrong with the Obama presidency. The way to set it right is for the president to come home to the great party he should lead. Then to seek the 50-50 compromise while negotiating from strength. Then to ask voters in 2012 for a true mandate worthy of a great president of a great nation.

Brent Budowsky

Brent Budowsky served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served as Legislative Director to Congressman Bill Alexander, then Chief Deputy Whip, House of Representatives. Currently a member of the International Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit. Left government in 1990 for marketing and public affairs business including major corporate entertainment and talent management. He can be reached at

Reposted from The Hill with the author’s permission.


  1. in_awe says

    Paul Krugman is busy consulting with NASA and the SETI project to find some aliens to invade the Earth and stimulate the global economy. He will be unavailable for more mundane issues until he is able to alienate enough aliens to assure his desired attack.

  2. -Nate says

    I hope President Obama will find the courage to do the job he promised to do and we elected him to do , repeatedly rolling over for the gop is making things far worse .

    I have the faith he can do this is he wants to , that’s the big question now : who’s side is he really on ? .

  3. says

    “But it is unacceptable that in the third year of his presidency he still blames his predecessor and does bus tours to promote jobs programs that do not exist.” True. $700 billion ($15 trillion not talked about) for businesses who purposely crashed the world system, ENRON-style. Nothing for those who were crashed — not even when their was a Majority to make it happen. New (meaningful) regulations? Not a chance. Nationwide fraud upon millions of homeowners. Take their side? Not a chance.

    “Something has gone wrong with the Obama presidency. The way to set it right is for the president to . . . lead.” After three years of a total sellout (including a Mandate to buy private insurance from private companies during a worldwide Depression and putting social security “on the table” — even though it has nothing to do with the deficit), who actually believes he will suddenly start leading in any direction other than the one he has led since taking office? Before the midterms, he campaigned on “strengthening” social security — after he had already sold it out to a faux deficit commission. Now that there is a new campaign season, this one for reelection, the same PR onslaught of 2008 will begin again — with all the rehashed FDR/Hope/Change/Jobs Programs pile of #*#*.

  4. says

    Brent – great advice for the wayward president!

    Insufficient advice for US NOW. It’s a mistake when allegedly free people pasively wait for their non-leading ‘leader’ to do something.

    The best way to up the chances that this president will finally act better is to get a credible primary opponent ASAP.

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