Tuesday, February 10, 2009

An Antietam Moment for Obama

Content and intent of the stimulus bill -- soon to be passed by Congress, continues to baffle the average American. The term “average” is not meant to insult anyone or infer anything – but rather, the term describes all Americans – not better or worse than our fellow citizens, everyone created equal. To put a finer point on it, we’re all riding on the good ship USS USA together, for better or worse. But every ship has a control bridge, and for the moment, it is the leadership up on the bridge that worries us “average” taxpayers.

Down below decks, we are the engine room mechanics, meal cooks and stewards. We are coal shovels, painters and carpenters. We are the ones who wear the overalls and get dirty. Up on the top deck, wearing their starched whites, are our commanding officers who we hope know what they are doing. Amongst the crew, we wonder out loud of their abilities. Do we want them to be aggressive, passive or just plain competent?

A recognized hallmark of effective leadership is excellent communication skills. Aboard the USS USA, that means White House and other administration officials communicating clearly with each other and with the taxpayer – clearly explaining why the ship is on a particular course. And, God forbid the ship is damaged, telling us precisely what actions they plan on taking. Americans don’t contemplate giving up the ship and we never will – but we have always required adequate and informed leadership.

In these early days of the Obama administration, the telephone lines that run from the bridge to the crew spaces below deck are jammed with mixed messages. It is not enough to say “ladies and gentleman, we’re going to sink and it’s going to be horrible”. Americans respond, “Yeah, so what are we going to do about it?”

The overstatement and soaring hyperbole on the size of the hole in our bottom has so far been the troubling hallmark of White House messaging. The last thing the crew needs to hear as the ship founders is “we’re in a hell of a mess” followed two minutes later by “we’re still in a hell of a mess.”

As the water pours into the ship, or, as is the case currently, billions of dollars flowing out of the taxpayer’s coffers, not one person in the entire administration is able to explain clearly what the devil is being done with the billions of dollars we are being asked to kick in. The money is flowing out of the ship like so much engine oil. The crew hears broad generalities about infrastructure repair, job creation, highway repair and such but absolutely no specifics as to how these pieces fit into the big picture. Remember the AIG bailout money? Yes, that money was pumped out during the last administration, but the current gang on the bridge admiring their gold braid is repeating the same mistake. They are suffering from a case of “the slows”, as President Lincoln like to call it.

Lincoln canned General McClelland after the Battle of Antietam for his “slowness”. Lincoln wanted results, not equivocation. Possibly this president will show the same fortitude of the man he constantly quotes and instill some aggressiveness in his “best and brightest” that have promised great things to the crew.

Captain, we’re waiting.

Submitted by ASO member: Matthew E Crowe

1 comment:

JeanieC said...

There is something a bit 'off' about the president's messaging on the economic situation. I keep waiting for him to at least attempt to instill a bit more confidence in us - remind us that American ingenuity and hard work has pulled us out of many-a-scrape in the past and, darn it, it will again.

President Obama won the election, in many ways, because he was the greater optimist. Where is that optimism now? I could really use a dose, personally. I bet a lot of others could, too.

And, by the way, Republicans can't be let off the hook on this point. They should explain a bit better that tax cuts work because they lighten the load on innovators and job creators - and those are the engines that we need to run on full tilt right now. It is incumbent on Republicans at this moment to explain that lightening the tax load allows the natural strengths of American entrepreneurs and workers to soar!

Instead we've got a gloom-and-doom message from the White House and Republicans who are [mostly] casting principled votes but still missing some opportunities on the sunshine/optimism/inspiring messages front.

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