THE BLOG
08/29/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Honeymoon's Over Mr. President - Now Deal with Guantanamo, Gay Rights and Health Care

Six months into the Obama Presidency and the honeymoon is really and truly over. All in all, he's doing a fine job, which is particularly impressive in light of the rather astounding mess that his administration inherited. But the true test of a president is not how he performs with the wind at his back, but how he performs in the face of stiff resistance. Not everything that should be done, can be -- that would be political suicide -- but nevertheless, many hard things need doing now.

To begin with, there's Guantanamo Bay. Obama said he'd close this 'extra-constitutional' blight on the national character. So close it. That may mean that a one-time seventeen-year old grenade-thrower who is being held in illegal detention will be released to the Afghani government. That's okay. Whatever danger such a person might theoretically pose, it is far less of a threat than a precedent of the government ignoring habeas corpus, access to the courts and the right to a speedy trial.

Then, there is the issue of gay rights. Pass an executive order that allows gay people to serve in the military; and then, get real about the fact that gay people are being denied basic civil rights. On the first count, the Obama administration would have the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Eisenhower administration, which mandated racial integration of the military. (I bet that people complained about 'unit cohesion' back then as well.) On the second, let's be honest: denying rights to people based on sexual orientation is no different than denying it based on skin color. However good our Constitution may be, it's far from perfect, which is why slavery lasted the better part of a century and women remained disenfranchised for even longer.

Finally, let's all admit that "...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." is impossible when 1 in 6 people don't have access to health care despite almost one in five dollars of GDP going to the system. The status quo is neutering the American Dream, disemboweling the overall economy and infringing on basic rights, which other developed nations already hold to be self-evident. Dealing with this will require presidential leadership, along with a fine combination of carrots/sticks and whatever else entices/scares blue dogs. The president, of course, will pay a political price for standing up, but if he moves quickly he can minimized the fallout.

President Obama, the honeymoon may be over, but you're still the right man to do the hard things. Please don't let the people on the Hill stymie the hopes of the 300 million of us who need you to lead.