Open thread on playing it safe or being bold

Over Thanksgiving my family (all Barack Obama voters in the general) were talking about what we'd like to see him do as president. One of my biggest concerns about Obama has always been that he would compromise too much in the name of bipartisanship and not seize the opportunity to get groundbreaking legislation through Congress. I've also worried that he would water down good policies that threaten to significantly bring down his approval rating.

From my perspective, Bill Clinton's presidency was not very successful for a lot of reasons. Some of them were his fault: he put the wrong people in charge of certain jobs, and he picked the wrong battles and listened too much to Wall Street advisers when it came to policy.

Some things were not Clinton's fault: the Democrats who ran Congress in 1993 and 1994 were not always interested in working with him, and the leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress were more interested in destroying his presidency than anything else.

After getting burned in the 1994 elections, Clinton hired Dick Morris as a political adviser and moved to the right in order to get re-elected. He served a full two terms, but he didn't leave a mark on this country. His greatest achievement, balancing the budget, was undone quickly by his successor. Many smaller successes on environmental and social policies were also reversed by George Bush's administration.

Clinton approved a bunch of good presidential directives, especially on the environment, during his last 60 days in office. Doing them years earlier would not only have been good policy, it also would have prevented Ralph Nader from gaining so much traction in 2000.

Clinton left some very big problems unaddressed, like global warming and our reliance on foreign oil, because the obvious solutions to these problems would have been unpopular.

Compare Clinton's legacy to that of Lyndon Johnson. Although Johnson made terrible mistakes in Vietnam (continuing and compounding mistakes made by John F. Kennedy), he enacted a domestic agenda that changed this country forever. Some of Johnson's achievements were popular (Medicare), while others cost the Democrats politically in many states (the Civil Rights Act). But Johnson did not shy away from big change on civil rights because of the political cost.

I understand that no president will ever do everything I'd like to see done. I'd be satisfied if Obama enacted a groundbreaking, lasting improvement in one or two big areas, like health care or global warming. The right policies often have powerful enemies. I would rather see Obama get good laws passed to address a couple of big problems, even if doing so costs him the 2012 election.

My fear is that in Obama will end up like Bill Clinton--a two-term president who didn't achieve anything that will continue to affect Americans' lives four or five decades down the road.

If Obama only goes to the mat to accomplish one or two big things, what should they be? Keeping his promise to end the war in Iraq? Getting universal health care through Congress? Taking real steps to address climate change? Enacting a huge public-works program to deal with unemployment? Building high-speed rail connecting major American cities?

Would you be satisfied with progress in one or two areas, even if it meant that Obama was not re-elected in 2012?

Yes, I understand that taking some step toward solving one or more of these problems would be popular, but real progress might require some provisions that are unpopular. That's what I'm talking about--policies that go against powerful interests and do more than convey the appearance of solving a problem.

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On his 100th anniversary is it not time we gave a great liberal his due??

Lyndon Baines Johnson (08/27/1908 - 08/27/2008)

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Russia Providing Ultimate Negative Obama Ad?

While I was driving for about eight hours today and hearing more about the awful Georgia/Russia situation and hearing John McCain's super-hawkish reaction to the whole thing, it made me realize that the time may be right for an ultimate October ad that would radically define something very scary about a John McCain presidency.

I'm sure we almost all know about the very first negative campaign ad, one that was supremely effective for Lyndon Johnson:

While the public is by no means eager to drop the ball on national security, it may be perhaps the time to remind everyone what exactly pugnacity and braggadocio can ultimately deliver. McCain's angry, volatile stance towards Russia can mean a renewed Cold War. Granted, it wouldn't take much pushing for Russia to welcome such tactics, but McCain has already made himself a great enemy of Vladimir Putin and would not necessarily have an international community behind him.

I think it is well worth considering this kind of tactic. Obama has been very steadfastly mentioning the importance of nuclear disarmament. This could drive home that point. We want to be safe, that is certain. But so far our war has been "over there". If Russia has good reason to attack us, it could come "over here" in a heartbeat. War can only keep us safe when it isn't happening here. That hasn't happened since Pearl Harbor (I refuse to call 9/11 anything but a criminal act). Let's remind people of that fact.

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Wright: Pastor at it again!

Update: Let's see if we can drag some more people in with a funny title.

Wright treats a president of the United States.

So it looks like Jeremiah Wright recieved commendation for tending to LBJ while he was a marine medical technician.

I wonder how this can be construed as him hating America.  Let's find out.

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The Chicken or The Egg?

     In what has got to be the most insane strategy in the history of politics, the two Democratic frontrunners are debating race in an election that features a woman and a black male. While both campaigns are responding to these non-issues, the real issues facing the country are being ignored. The choice of who best represents the future direction of the country should be front and center of the debate, not the race or gender of the candidates. Both campaigns are guilty of fueling the flames and highlighting differences that don't exist. Does anyone doubt that Hillary Clinton is committed to civil rights? Does anyone doubt that she has a healthy understanding of the civil rights movement and its leaders?

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