Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Don't Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was quoted last November as saying, "Don't let a good crisis go to waste". At the time, he was talking about the economy. Today is President Obama's 100th day in office. Not only was he handed the economic collapse, he inherited two wars, foreign instability, a health care crisis, an environmental mess, the question of how to handle torture and advanced interrogation techniques, and now the swine flu epidemic. On his 100th day, Obama says he's "pleased but not satisfied" with the progress his Administration has made. The public seems to think he's on the right track. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, he's got a 61% approval rating. A lot of times, when presidents become consequential in history, it is events that force them to be. "Great presidents have to be pushed into their greatness", said author and PBS host Tavis Smiley. "Great presidents aren't born. Great presidents are made". In the NBC/WJS poll, 81% of Americans personally like the President, including 30% who disagree with his policies. The poll also says that 43% of Americans believe the economy is headed in the right direction. We ended the election cycle with 12% of Americans saying the country was headed in the right direction. Now, even with the economy flatlining and the international problems getting worse, we have a president who, through the sheer force of his personality and star quality, has single-handedly moved the mood of the country up almost 30 points. With all his multi-tasking, the President has made health care reform, the environment, and education his priorities. If he is successful, especially in the area of health care, he'll be able to put more points on the board. During his campaign, the President pledged to have health care reform in his first term in office. Now it's looking like he'll have some kind of a bill by the end of the year. In a town hall meeting this morning in Missouri, Obama said lately he's been too busy to play basketball. He's had time for just about everything else. Look for the President to spend a lot of time on tonight's prime-time news conference discussing the Bush administration's position on torture, because that's a hot-button issue, and Dick Cheney has been all over the news media lately defending it. Expect the President to talk about Pakistan, because that is where the next war might be. He'll no doubt be asked about Arlen Specter's defection from the Republican Party, because this is a major indication of the recent implosion of the Republican Party and is a major win for the Obama Administration. The news of the day, the swine flu, will likely take up much of the dialogue, and the President will lay out the government's response to the global epidemic. But besides talking about the economy as it relates to the bank and auto industry bailouts, look for the President to point out that one of his biggest priorities is health care reform. After all, our current dreadfully inadequate health system takes up one-sixth of the U.S. economy. And medical bills trigger half of all bankruptcies in this country. This is a crisis we can't waste. The economy depends on it.