Barack Obama, despite the massive problems he faces, is a popular president. Some of it may be the honeymoon of the first one hundred days, though these weeks have hardly deserved the term. It may be his infectious smile and determination and his tendency to come to us rather than to stay within the beltway hunkering down as many Republicans want him to do.
A good part of it may be that hope still lingers. On 60 Minutes Obama himself mentioned "flickers" of it appearing lately in the economy, and that was before the Dow soared 500 points. But it may also be a phenomenon in persuasion, which is that when people publicly commit to an action, they find it uncomfortably dissonant to change their minds. In short, many people who supported Barack Obama did so in very visible ways, often going against their political party, and they simply don't want to now believe or admit that they might have been wrong.
So they let the Geithner tax thing pass and his inability to inspire or talk to the press. As Campbell Brown argued the other night, they let some promised transparency go too. They give the president a break on "gallows humor" while talking about Iraq and the economy. In fact, they give President Obama and his team passes on a lot of things, because he inspired so many to vote for him who otherwise would have voted Republican or not at all.
Now, before you jump down my throat, I voted for him too. And I'm one of those people giving him a pass on a lot of things. After all, we need for him to succeed. But I don't like at all that he keeps choosing members of the established elite as his advisers who all think in similar ways, when what we wanted was change. I've said it and I'll say again that he needs to distrust his predilection to pick people who are bright on paper but haven't demonstrated an understanding of what people are actually going through right now and a sense of what they're willing and able to do about it.
Getting out of Washington helps, but if you go back to the same set of people who are good at writing formulas on white boards but haven't an ounce of common sense or common experience, change isn't even possible.
Barack Obama is a far cry better than what we had. And the job before him is monumental. I'm impressed as can be with what Michelle Obama is doing in terms of reaching out to help children and encouraging them to get an education. And she is simply an impressive person. Together they are just what we need in so many ways. But the hope bubble they so skillfully crafted isn't going to float forever without some significant indications that the man who embodied change is not about to be stalled by an inability to see beyond his elite Ivy League education connections and Senatorial favor banking. And those are the sides that are showing the most lately.
He needs some breaths of fresh air in that White House. The Republicans are stuck with the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingram defining who they are. If it weren't for the very bright, very sincere and tough spirited, young Meghan McCain, no one would be standing up to them.
Well, the Democrats need to look at who and what they're allowing to define them as well. If it's going to continue to be the very people who got us in to messes we're now trying to clean up, that's not change.
Hope actually doesn't spring eternal - at least not in one location. And the latest polls are suggesting that may be true at the White House. President Obama and Joe Biden should be scouring the country -- the world --for people with novel ideas before, like the Republicans, they are nothing more than the worst of their former selves.
As president, I'd tell each of my advisers to invite to the White House three highly regarded people who clearly disagree with them on key issues relevant to our worst dilemmas. I'd hear them out and hire a few.
Barack Obama is a good listener and learns from debate. He needs people around him who have ideas up their sleeves that never see the light of day because they are not among the favored. I'm not talking about a big conference, which becomes a big show of two days of solidarity among opposing groups, but some heart to heart conversations with big thinkers who never expected an invitation to the White House - let alone from a colleague close to the president with whom they vehemently disagree.
Now that would inspire some hope. That would be a start in terms of change and it would likely lead to some solutions that would otherwise remain dormant. Seeing new faces and hearing some good ideas would go a good way toward keeping hope afloat, to say nothing of what it might do in terms of much needed creative solutions.
Dr. Reardon also blogs at bardscove.
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