President Obama needs to fail in order to become a better leader. Every U.S. President has met with failures of all kinds, and frequently they were self-inflicted. Great men around the world engaged in politics, business and every human endeavor become great in their fields because they have failed – and sometimes many times. History’s best and most respected individuals have acknowledged failure, made it their own, learned from it, they tried something else, and they eventually succeeded. The worst characters have denied it, blamed others, reinforced and expanded the failure, and ultimately have not grown as people or leaders.
Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Pursuing rigid economic and political ideologies without regards to reality has done this country serious harm over the past decade. By 2012, the President will have likely changed some of his current decisions and policies in light of new facts and circumstances. This also assumes he has the courage and intelligence to admit failures and thus promptly change courses on several fronts for the long-term benefit of the nation.
Every President is tested multiple times in office and not every test is a success. How President Obama handles the normal set-backs will ultimately define his political legacy. It will also prepare him to correctly address many unexpected and new challenges. More importantly his new responses will determine whether the country moves forward, backwards, or just stagnates. Presidential decisions do not have immediate effects, as in promptly ending a recession. However, they do create a long-term framework and an overall impetus for the political and economic winds that many others come to influence and build upon.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was probably the most successful yet mistake-prone Chief Executive in U.S. history. His flexibility, openness to new ideas, and constant policy modifications ultimately were key factors for the long-term prosperity of the nation following WWII. Presidents Kennedy and Reagan also met with significant domestic and foreign policy failures but they were intelligent and flexible enough to make significant policy changes during their times in office. Both are regarded in retrospect as successful chief executives.
Independents, Republicans, Democrats and Moderates should expect President Obama to falter and fail on some of his current policies. Even liberal critics have been rather skeptical of some of the decisions taken with respect to the financial and banking sectors. The Conservative critics find nothing right with the current Administration but some also wish that the President will not be able to handle failure. That should not be wished upon anyone who has such important responsibilities over our nation and its people.
Certainly deficit spending at unprecedented levels cannot be sustained by a nation inextricably linked to the rest of the world and that prints the world’s common currency. While many laudable new programs and initiatives have been announced, the Administration has made little mention on how they will be fully funded. Comprehensive tax policy is hardly discussed intelligently and calmly by anyone in Congress or this Administration. Presidential decisions made now with respect to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea will have long-term global consequences.
Recent polls consistently show the majority of Americans do not share the far right’s mean-spirited, angry, nihilistic desire for complete failure on the part of the new Administration. Most people realize that bad economic and political choices have repercussions in the daily lives of everyone. The majority know that decisions made over the past decade have inextricably caused our current deep economic mess. We have already been battered by rising unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, and unmanageable debt at the household, business and governmental levels. We instinctively hope for the best so the current pain, suffering and fear among us are eventually reversed. Often rising consumer confidence is part of the equation for overall national economic success. At least the aggregate of individual opinions on the overall economy is now positive, and more likely the result of words rather than actual deeds on the part of the Obama Administration.
What we should all hope for is that President Obama is flexible, intelligent, and honest enough to acknowledge failures. And we should hope that he and his Administration is able to quickly adapt and try new alternatives in order to find workable solutions to many persistent problems without regard to any particular political or economic ideologies. He should also not be too loyal to any particular advisers as sometimes a President must move on for the greater good of the nation. If he relies more on a cross-section of differing opinions, rather than being rigid and dogmatic, he will be more respected by the American people and ultimately be a successful President.
The American electorate must contemporaneously exercise patience, calm, and hold a long-term view. Our 2-year election cycles are mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Will people be forgiving and understand that no person or government is consistently perfect? Will we expect our mortal leaders to have the impossible foresight, infallibility, and invincibility that we cannot realistically expect from ourselves? Will we learn anything from history or will we simply repeat it?
Written and posted on 5/27/09 by Marc Pascal in Phoenix, AZ – who promises his many critics to stay focused on one topic per post, but please remember that I’m only human.