Sunday, September 30, 2012

Presidential Leadership: A Comparison

President Obama laments that he has been unable to accomplish his goals because of the "Republican Congress".  (President Obama seems to forget that he has a Democrat majority in the Senate) Does he have a legitimate argument?  Let's look at recent past Presidents.

When President Reagan was elected to his first term, he had a Republican Senate, but an overwhelming Democratic House led by Tip O'Neill, a strong ideologue for his party.  Yet President Reagan was able to push through his economic growth agenda that led to an unprecedented recovery from much worse economic circumstances than Obama inherited.  In addition, he famously worked with Tip O'Neill to pass social security reform.    At no time did anyone hear Ronald Reagan blame anyone for any failure.

When Bill Clinton was elected, like President Obama, he had Democrat majorities in both houses of Congress.  Also, like Obama, during the mid-term elections in 1996, the House went Republican, but unlike, Obama, the Senate also went Republican.  Bill Clinton had to work with Newt Gingrich as Speaker of the House of Representatives - an ideologue, basically, a right-wing Tip O'Neill.  Bill Clinton most likely wasn't happy, but he nonetheless set out to work with Newt Gingrich and his colleagues and accomplished major welfare reform as well as spending cuts that led to a surplus.

George Bush had a Republican majorities in his first term and Democrat majorities in his second term.  He famously worked with Ted Kennedy to push through bipartisan education reform. He never complained that the Democrats blocked his economic agenda during his second term and attempts at reforming the federal mortgage system.

Now to the current President.  President Obama had overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress when he came to office in 2009.  He worked with the Democrats to pass an $800 billion stimulus package that ended up costing over $300,000 for each job it supposedly created.  (Although according to Bob Woodward's book, he apparently did not take a leadership role.)  He is credited with pushing through Obamacare, although it might be better-named Pelosi care as he never proposed his own plan, but allowed Congress to come up with a plan.  He presided over TARP II which led to more bailouts including the government becoming an owner of the General Motors.   Obama had no trouble passing his agenda during the first two years and our ballooning debt and deficits are a testament to that fact..

Then the midterms came at the end of 2010 with voters soundly rejecting Obama's agenda through an election of an overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House.  President Obama's first foray into working with the new House was to state, "The Republicans can come for the ride, but they gotta sit in the back."   A leader doesn't lead by marginalizing an elected opposition.  A President leads by reaching out.  Yet there are many instances of Obama lashing out from the beginning.  Bob Woodward in his new book speaks about how Obama failed to lead during the debt deal negotiations.  During the negotiations with Boehner (an ideological midget compared to Gingrich, O'Neill and Kennedy), Boehner had agreed to revenue increases put forth by Obama, but Obama reneged on his offer and asked for more.  Boehner threw up his hands at the bad faith and Obama became enraged.  The debt talks failed.    Not only can Obama not reach out to Republicans, he cannot reach out to his own party in the Senate to get his budget passed.  Obama sent a budget which was defeated 97-0 by the Senate.  Moreover, his Democratic Senate has failed to pass any budget for over three years in contravention of the law.  Even one of his own Democrats said that Obama is alienating and arrogant.  Now, during the campaign we are hearing that its all the Republicans fault, he can't change Washington from the inside.  President Obama's lament is really an admission of failed leadership.   And he wants us to re-elect him?

So would Mitt Romney fare any better?  Consider that Mitt Romney was governor of a state whose legislature was 85% Democrat.  However, he managed to work with the Democrats to eliminate a billion dollar deficit, end with a surplus and a "rainy-day" fund of over 2 billion, lower unemployment to 4.6% and raise Massachusetts' credit rating.

He was called in to save a corrupt and debt laden Olympics in Salt Lake City.  The Olympics ended up being successful financially and otherwise. 

Obama has demonstrated that he is not a leader.  He has demonstrated that he cannot work with ideological opponents or even those who tend to agree with him.

Romney, on the other hand, has a history of working successfully with political opposition even when such opposition is overwhelming.  He has a history of problem solving, both in the private sector and in the public sector.  And unlike, Obama, he brings to the presidency executive experience.  I am confident that if he is elected President, you will not hear Romney blaming Democrats for their or his shortcomings.  You will see Romney working with Congress toward solutions to improve America's woeful economy and debt problems.