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Obama's First Fifteen Days

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Today, on day 15 of his presidency, Barack Obama fulfills another campaign promise and signs the State Children's Health Insurance Program bill. This tri-partisan triumph, supported by Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and nonpartisan groups from the AARP to the YWCA, will provide health coverage for 11 million American children, and a down payment on the promise of universal health care. Coming a day after Tom Daschle's sad but honorable withdrawal as HHS Secretary, this historic health care development is a reminder that despite the drama, President Obama is able to deliver the change he promised.

While President Obama has stumbled, he has not fallen. He set out lofty goals for himself - progressive economics and post-partisanship; speed and deliberation; ethics and experience - that sometimes are at odds with each other, but this has not stopped him from pushing an economic recovery package, assembling over 2/3 of his cabinet, and drawing lines in the sand with his own appointees and corporate executives all in his first 15 days as President. He accepted responsibility for his mistakes - what a breath of fresh air! - and pledged to learn from them. So far, so good.

As to the liberal laments and conservative catcalls about triangulation, let's get real: yes, President Obama will triangulate his base and his party on some issues because that is what Presidents do. We knew this going in; indeed, many of us Democratic National Committee superdelegates discussed this publicly during the marathon 2007-2008 election: what happens when we nominate a candidate to straddle the dual roles of leading the Democratic Party and leading the country? The voters decided that Barack Obama's "post-partisan" approach was the best choice for the times and we worked our hearts out to elect him President.

Now that President Obama is working to remain above the fray, how does it feel to go from being "the base" to being "the fray"? Well, about as expected: we knew this would happen, that it wouldn't feel great, but that our agenda would be worth the trouble. We have the stamina to push our agenda of a 21st century economy, universal healthcare, and reasonable return of our troops from Iraq mindful that, as Obama said today, we cannot "let the perfect be the enemy of the essential." We are not about to go to main street workers or uninsured kids or military families and say "gee I was going to work on this agenda but Barack Obama is triangulating me so I quit." Please. Our times are bigger than that, our call to service is bigger than each of us, and as long as President Obama shows us his good faith efforts to deliver the change he promised, his early stumbles will not keep him from walking his walk.