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    6 posts, 3 voices, 571 views, started Oct 10, 2008

    Posted on Friday, October 10, 2008


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      Just who might we be electing in Barack Obama? When I ponder this question just 25 days out from Election day, I frankly still cannot find a solid answer. I do not know that we have seen a more elusive presidential nominee in terms of his policy prescriptions and programmatic positions in modern history. Mr. Obama has perfected the skill of being “The Everyman.” He has campaigned on a mix of nuanced policy positions that straddle the ideological fence and seemingly hard policy positions that are softened in the fine print with wiggle room, outs and missing details - and he thereby is succeeding at being all things to all people. He has actively marketed himself as a little of everything - half white and half black, rural boy and city boy, simple Kansan and elite Harvard grad - the consummate human bridge between bickering American partisans of all stripes who just might lead us to nowhere.  

      Mr. Obama may be the most cynical candidate that I can recall. He understands and quite deliberately exploits the tendency of today’s media-baraged, deeply partisan voters to see and hear what they want about their candidate and to disregard any contradictory information as mere noise or the stuff of the political opposition’s smear machine. Try to place Mr. Obama into a particular bucket - you will fail. He is for and against affirmative action. He is for and against oil drilling on the continental shelf. He is for and against public financing of national political campaigns. He is for and against NAFTA and trade agreements. He is for and against school reform that involves competency testing for teachers. He is for and against welfare programs. He is anti-Washington even as he seeks to rule Washington. He is anti-Wall Street even as he has collected enormous campaign contributions from investment bankers and financiers. The list is impressive and depressing all at once. As our old friends Paul Newman and Robert Redford put it in Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, “who is that guy?” Mr. Obama refuses to answer.

      I want Mr. Obama to be a great president. I want him to succeed. The time is now for Mr. Obama to step up and show leadership as our finanical markets spiral downward. Mr. Obama can earn my trust and respect by coming forward now, a mere 3 months before he would take the oath of office, and outlining an economic plan that addresses the new financial world that is taking shape around us. I do not want to hear about raising the capital gains tax from 15% to 20% or as much as 28% while equity retreats from the New York Stock Exchange at record levels and a mind-numbing pace. I do not want to hear about additional corporate taxes and payroll tax obligations on businesses anywhere from 4% to 6% (business pays 50% and individual earners pay 50% of the payroll tax) as unemployment marches toward 7% and the market capitalization of our major corporations plummets. I am concerned about tax hikes on the top earners (the top 20%) in America who already shoulder some 70% of the national tax burden on individuals when we have a locked up credit market, absent savings, an enormous federal debt and deficits and badly need investment to recapitalize the economy. During Tuesday’s debate, Mr. Obama nonetheless promised to rollout the economic plan that he introduced for the primary season. That plan no longer addresses the realities in America. Step up and lead, Mr. Obama. Show the courage to pull back on promises that do not make sense any longer. You may win the election by avoiding hard decisions now and embracing expectations created on the campaign trail that must be disappointed later, but you will face far greater challenges once you enter the Oval Office.

      Times are very hard right now. We are a nation in desperate economic circumstances and at war in multiple theaters. Our weakness places global security at risk. A weak America creates space for rogue nations and bad players to take aggressive actions with lesser fear of consequences. America needs steady and solid leadership in the baddest way.

      Mr. Obama’s greatest political achievements to date are his campaign victories. He does not possess a legislative victory or policy victory that proves his mettle as a Commander in Chief or a President of the United States. He is an exceedingly talented man with great promise. But, he is a story and a leader in the making. I want to see a major act of leadership and accountability from Mr. Obama before he assumes office, if that is his fate. Please, Mr. Obama, for the sake of the nation, rework your economic plan now and lay out the new details. Show Americans the path that lies ahead. Take the courageous and bold action required to restore a sense of confidence in our people and our markets. To fail at this is to fail in leadership. Winning is not worth it if you will not lead.


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