Today is the first anniversary of Barack Obama's acceptance speech at Denver's Invesco Field. That speech to the 75,000+ on hand and millions watching on television stands in sharp contrast to today, where the President and his family are on Martha's Vineyard, away from the cameras and the public, pleading for some privacy.
Clearly, the President, the Congress and the American people have come a long way together over the past twelve months -- and it shows. We all need a vacation from each other. Lawmakers and their staffs deserve a vacation, but perhaps more importantly, the American people need a vacation from Washington, and from the fire hose of public policy and politics that has been pointed at them since that night one year ago in Denver.
The American people have had the equivalent of a super-sized political meal. Never have so many consumed so much political fodder served up by Democrats and Republicans alike. We need to push back from the table, unbutton the top button of our collective pants...and rest.
As Members of Congress and their staffs leave Washington, there is an almost audible and collective sigh of relief. The coverage of the health care town hall screaming matches has drowned out any thoughtful analysis of the work done by the President and the Congress since January. Back in January, my friends on Capitol Hill knew there was no gap between our "worst fears" and "conventional wisdom" when it came to the cratering economy. As they leave, you can also hear them let out a commiserating sigh -- not the sigh of absolute victory over the threats to the economy, but the sort of fatigued sigh you let out as a frightened parent when your sick and crying baby finally falls asleep. You know it may wake up cranky, but at least you know the worst may be behind you -- and you'll get a couple of hours of sleep in between. The corporate earnings this quarter, new housing starts and stout home values all released in the past ten days suggest the worst of the economic downturn is behind us.
So everyone should enjoy the break: the President and his family, Congress, and especially the American people. Why? Because if you thought the last year was busy, this fall may be unprecedented in its scope. When Congress and the President return to Washington, and the American people start watching, listening and caring about the news again, there will be more fodder, more information, more drinking from a firehose.
Just consider the matters that confront Congress and the President when they return: Growing military deployments to Afghanistan. Health care reform. Appropriations bills. Iraq. Economic stimulus. Reform of financial institutions. Regulatory reform. Energy policy. The list is staggering.
The Administration should pick two from this list and not stop until they are finished. That means legislation passed through both Houses of Congress and signed into law by the President. No institution can do more than two - maybe three - things well at a time. This White House is no different.