My natural inclination, like others who are still savoring the sweet taste of triumph on November 4, is to exact a pound of flesh from the vanquished. Eight years of thievery, deception, ineptitude, incompetence, anti-intellectual arrogance, and sheer stupidity will do that. The first opportunity for the President-elect to show there is a new sheriff in town would have been to hoist Joe Lieberman by his miserable petard and banish him from partaking in the spoils of victory. Make no mistake about it, I found his actions despicable, his words menacing, and his judgment terribly flawed. It would have delighted many on the left to make an example of this Democratic traitor.
But for all the short-term satisfaction such an act might have engendered, in the long-run it would have been counterproductive and hypocritical. It would have cut against the grain of everything that the President-elect campaigned for under the rubric of change. Change not only implies, but demands, that we seek to accomplish our program and policy goals for the country utilizing a different process orientation. It is critically important that we divorce ourselves from the blood sport of politics and the impotence of partisan governance that has paralyzed our system and left us with the immense problems now facing the next Administration. The key to leadership here is to take the anger and channel it into constructive energy, and that is exactly what Obama has done.
Similarly, Obama reaching out to Clinton and McCain, two former rivals, is also critically important to moving forward to address these problems. One might think that this requires Herculean inner strength on the part of the President-elect, but I tend to believe that it is totally in keeping with the cool and calm demeanor he demonstrated as the economy began imploding just a few months back. In my calculus, Obama's studious attention to that disaster, coupled with McCain's erratic overreaction did more to swing undecided independent voters than anything else. Therefore, to succumb to the emotions of the moment with respect to Sen. Lieberman would have been out of character and legitimately raised questions as to who the real Obama is.
The most important variable in all of this is the ability to accomplish a change in the direction of the country. The course Obama has laid out will require consensus, an old-fashioned word that too often has not been invoked in the past eight years. The ability to achieve consensus is made all that more difficult if you divide up the world into red teams and blue teams. The President-elect understands this and has understood it for some time. Sacrifice also requires consensus, and we simply cannot escape from the current problems facing our nation without a sense of commitment to our ideals that will force us to change our ways of doing things.
What we are witnessing is the first test of statesmanship from our new leader. We may not readily see it, but he does. We may struggle with the counter intuitiveness of these actions, but he does not. What we are getting is exactly what we found so appealing about the candidate in the first place: namely, he actually believes in his words. That, in itself, is reason to celebrate. But far more importantly, the long term results we will experience from such dedication will be well worth the pain in achieving them.
The noble appeal of public service is to get things done. After a long period of unintended consequences, this is a refreshing ideal. So let us hold our powder and allow the man to get to the job of repairing our broken system. And as we should, we will let the people of Connecticut render their verdict come election time. For now, we must put that aside and set to work on the people's business. One must hope that in the process of his rehabilitation, the good Senator might be more susceptible to return the favor of forgiveness on issues where he might be straddling the fence. In the end, the benefits of this decision will outweigh the costs and we surely do need a studious sense of cost-benefit analysis as we approach the difficult dilemmas facing our nation's future.
I believe that Obama has passed his first post-election test with flying colors. Now it is on to the next one, and the next one, and the next one.....