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Peter D. Rosenstein Headshot

Give 'em Hell Barack!

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In his great biography of Truman David McCullough writes: "You never truly know someone until you have observed them backed to the edge of the abyss, fighting to avoid falling into its depths. For Harry Truman the 1948 election was such a moment. It threatened his presidency, the existence of his party and the values of Liberal America."

2012 may be just such an election for Barack Obama. This has been a rough two weeks for the President. Many believe he got rolled in the debt ceiling agreement; then Standard & Poor's lowered the boom on him and downgraded the country's bond ratings; Quinnipiac came out with a new poll showing his popularity down in New York which is one of the bluest states in the nation; and now an appeals court has ruled against one of the main parts of his healthcare plan. Can't blame some people for thinking we may be looking at a one term President.

But hold that thought. We still don't know who will be running against the President and the election is nearly 15 months away. Elections involve at least two candidates and judging by some of the drivel spouted during last week's Republican debate the opposition still has a long way to go to come up with a coherent message on why the nation should trust them to do better. The 17,000 people paying or having a candidate pay for them and bus them in to vote in the Ames, Iowa straw poll aren't representative of the nation. They did end the bid of Tim Pawlenty because he couldn't become right-wing enough fast enough to please anyone. Currently on the Republican side there is flip-flop Romney whose positions change so fast his head should be on a swivel; Ron Paul who is running to be President of a government he thinks shouldn't exist; and Michele Bachmann whose major claim to fame is allowing people to choose the light bulb they want. Then there is Jon Huntsman whose campaign couldn't even get his own name right at his announcement and Rick Perry who announced this weekend about whom I read that he is referred to as the candidate of those who thought George Bush was too cerebral. So we aren't even ready to say game-on no less game over!

Barack Obama still has the time to step-up to the plate and become a real leader. The Country is hungering for one and they will rally around the person who has the guts to present to them a plan that will; produce jobs, balance the budget fairly by cutting programs and raising revenue and also manages to protect and stabilize social security and Medicare for future generations. That doesn't mean not making changes to the programs but it does mean reminding people the government runs Medicare and Medicaid with only a 1.5% administrative cost while their private insurance does it at between 10 and 15%. The President also needs to remind the nation that nearly 30 years ago Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neil managed to work together on a successful Social Security Commission and we can do it again today.

It must be clear by now to the President and his campaign staff that sitting back and hoping Congress will do something isn't the way to go. We know the public realizes that based on recent Gallup polling that showed only 21% think that members of Congress deserve to be reelected http://www.gallup.com/video/148961/Editor-Chief-Insights-Voters-Anti-Incumbent-Sentiment.aspx. Even though in most polls the President's approval ratings are under 50%, compared to Congress he still looks good.

To capitalize on his margins over Congress Barack Obama needs to more effectively use his bully pulpit and make an effort to reconnect with people. He has to stop sounding like the constitutional law professor he is, and begin to sound more like Harry Truman. Maybe the new slogan for his campaign should be "Give 'em Hell Barack".

The first thing to go should be his vacation to Martha's Vineyard. He will have plenty of time for the Vineyard if he loses the election. Then Obama needs to produce a plan for creating jobs, growing the economy and bringing down the debt and he needs one quickly. Maybe some time at Camp David would be more conducive to creating that plan. Then he needs to dig down and find the passion we have occasionally witnessed and present that plan to the people and go out and sell it.

The "supercommittee" agreed to in the debt ceiling pact has been named but the President shouldn't sit back and wait for them to come up with a plan. He needs to tell Congress the plan he wants them to pass and spend the next three months crisscrossing the nation campaigning for it. Go out and barnstorm and tell the people that if Congress won't pass his plan, or a similar one, he will spend the next year campaigning for a Congress that will. "Give 'em hell Barack!"

I am a Barack Obama supporter but the "hope and change" slogan of 2008 doesn't work anymore. After all Barack Obama is the president. He needs to go out there and tell the people how he intends to use his second term. Tell us why we should reelect him not only based on the positive things he did in the first four years but on what he will do in the next four. Barack Obama needs to be the hope, not just use it as a slogan.