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Jim Neal Headshot

A Note to the President

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A jolt to self-esteem would be an understatement for the sort of personal rejection Barack Obama endured Tuesday. At Wednesday's press conference, Mr. Obama was reflective, somber if not depressed. He seemed unsure of himself and lost in a cobweb. He is clearly taking the midterm losses very personally despite his attempt to put on his game face.

In truth, there was nothing personal about the losses the Democrats sustained.

Americans are united in two critical arenas: their contempt for Washington politicians of all stripes and their fear about their economic security. They voted those frustrations yesterday. Their votes were not for the Republican Party but against the objectification of their fears: the leader of our nation. Barack Obama was a mere bogeyman for America's legitimate frustration with a dysfunctional government.

When the new Congress convenes in January, there will be a new bogeyman in town. The hot potato is in the hands of the Republican Party for the next two years.

And therein lies the silver lining -- a Pyrrhic victory -- for the president. The heat's off. It's now the Republicans' economy to fix and it's the Republicans' responsibility to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

That's a tall order for a Party that reminds us "Government doesn't create jobs."

In 2012 Americans will do what they always do: vote with their pocketbooks. The Republicans have no rabbits in the hat, no tricks up their sleeve to fatten, much less maintain, those pocketbooks. You can't pay the mortgage with a tax cut. You can't stave off a foreclosure with a tax cut. You can't stimulate short-term economic growth through tax cuts. You can't create jobs by cutting government spending and shuttering government agencies. You can't create jobs by bashing gays, illegal immigrants and mosques.

You can't cut the deficit with tax cuts. You can't cut the deficit by prolonging the war in Afghanistan. You can't cut the deficit without making deep cuts in Medicare and Social Security. You can't cut the deficit by allowing state governments to go bankrupt when those newly minted Republican governors come calling for help.

And you can't satisfy your new Tea Party Patriot wing if you don't undertake all of the above.

Mr. Obama you should seize the throttle of power that you've found so slippery. You don't have to please everyone anymore and you needn't be everywhere. You're overexposed. Toss the teleprompter. Trust your extraordinary communication skills, but use them deftly. Listen more than you preach. Enough with the politainment. You are the destination: make CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC and NBC come to the President in the Oval Office. Make clear to the Joint Chiefs that the military chain of command begins with you and they serve at your pleasure. Insist on unit cohesion: they button up their personal opinions when testifying before Congress. A few photo-ops from the Oval Office of you sitting behind your desk, leaning forward with the Joint Chiefs and Secretary Gates seated in front of you is a powerful reminder.

Throw the Republicans some bait. Give them their temporary extension on tax cuts. Agree to veto any bill laden with pork. Challenge their zeal to win a war that cannot be won and set high-water benchmarks for victory. Wave off attempts to waste the American public's time relitigating the health care reform bill.

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Chill the populist bashing of corporations and lobbyists. Stick by your core principles and by all means protect your waffling base. You cannot afford leakage. Broaden that base by being the champion of and voice for the people suffering under Republican initiatives that won't be creating jobs and economic growth. Quit running for policies and begin running against Republican foibles. There will be aplenty.

Clean house at the White House. You need a COO, a White House whip if you will, who drives policy and gives you actionable tasks. Take names. Throw the power of your office behind pushing the Senate caucus to elect a pit bull aka Chuck Schumer as the next Senate Majority Leader. Your party needs a wartime political team.

Show some toughness. America likes tough guys who draw lines in the sand and counter punch. Bring Bill Moyers in as an advisor. He learned the ropes at the coattails of the master of the iron glove, Lyndon Johnson. No triangulating. Texan Moyers knows damn well there's not a thing in the center but yellow lines and dead armadillos.

If you do Man Up Mr. Obama, you'll win reelection for yourself and strengthen your party in 2012. You lost a battle yesterday, a battle that has presented a strategic opportunity to mount a counter offensive. Your foe is an enemy that will crumble under the weight of the spoils it won yesterday.

The war, sir, is yours to lose.