No one said it was going to be easy. The pressures of the first 100 days, the problems that were inherited, the persistent ideological divide between the parties, and the obstacles in the confirmation process of his cabinet secretaries have the new Obama administration taking a strong dose of political reality. Some pundits are saying that the lustre is wearing off, yet Obama’s poll numbers remain sky high. Is Washington that disconnected or does the American public not get it?
The battle over the stimulus or recovery package was always going to be tough. Democrats and Republicans have been polarized for decades and it is foolhardy to believe that reaching a consensus between them is easy. The president is obsessed with finding a bipartisan solution and it would send the right signals if he were to succeed. But, in order to do so, it will be essential that both parties find grounds for compromise, and Obama has been cajoling, pressuring and trying to seduce some leading legislators to change their rigid positions in order to close the deal.
Obama’s opposition to protectionist measures that could start a trade war were encouraging to Republicans and to trading nations, while his ceiling on CEO pay for bailed-out companies in the finance sector is bound to please the Democratic base. Finally, his admission that he “screwed up” on some cabinet nominations was refreshing by most standards. In short, Obama has been showing leadership and has kept the focus on his ultimate goal—to get the recovery package through. In no way is this young president showing any signs of being destabilized.
America is facing enormous challenges and it will be years before it can chart a course based on a stable economy and domestic security. These are dangerous times and the Obama administration seems very conscious of the stakes. His mandate is the most daunting since FDR. It is said that crisis tests the greatness of its leaders; I remain confident that Obama has the talent and the character to meet the challenges of the day and prepare the course for future generations. His poise and grace have shone through this tough week and will serve him well for the many to come.