As a former head women's tennis coach at Georgetown University, I know what it's like to inherit a weak team. It's great -- nowhere to go but up! Pressure is off... at least for the first season.
Team Obama is closing in on its first term, fourth season, and the U.S. economy is still weak. GDP only just recovered to its pre-recession peak, and unemployment is still over 8 percent. Our national debt keeps growing. And the administration is not showing the kind of leadership Congress needs to stop kicking the fiscal can further down the road.
This month, Team Romney asked, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" Many Americans couldn't say yes. They're worried about stagnant wages, a tough job market, rising college tuition, and underfunded pension plans. The administration fired back by claiming the question is unfair -- it doesn't account for how bad the recession was and for how misguided the previous administration's tax and spending policies were.
But almost four years later, should the president still get a pass? Going back to the sports metaphor, if Obama is the head coach of the U.S. economy, he has a losing record. Any athletic department would give a head coach a couple years to rebuild and recruit, and then another year to see how the team starts to work together and find its rhythm. After three-and-a-half years without a winning record, any respectable athletic director would give the coach the boot.
At the beginning, just about anything can be blamed for a bad performance -- the previous coach's record, a shortage of funds, injuries... or even the weather.
But at some point, the buck has to stop at a coach's door. She has to own her team's problems and take responsibility for performance. That's what leadership is. And if she can't deliver, fire her!
President Obama certainly inherited a weak economy -- nowhere to go but up. But he can't keep blaming continued weakness on past crises, inheriting poor monetary policy, or policy mistakes.
As a big basketball player and fan, Obama certainly would be impatient if his favorite team had a losing record for three years. I wonder, would he fire the coach?