America has moved from a president elected in 2008 for hope and change to a midterm election in 2010 dominated by massive dumps of mud and sludge on voters sickened and disgusted by both political parties.
Is America ready for a president who could write a $3 billion check for his campaign and never need one dime of special-interest money?
Imagine the candidacy of a self-made billionaire CEO who built and ran a globally admired business, successfully manages the largest city government in the world and can tell voters that he is unbought and unbossed by campaign donors, lobbyist influence or partisan politics.
President Obama is famous for disrespecting advice from outside a small inner circle, even from strong supporters, but here is my advice. There is a powerful majority tide of public revulsion toward both political parties. Either the president will lead it, follow it, or his presidency will be overwhelmed by it.
The president should: invite Michael Bloomberg to be his Treasury secretary. Ask former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker to formally join the White House staff for six months. Name a chief of staff who has operated at the highest levels, such as Tom Daschle, George Mitchell or Leon Panetta. Bring in a senior counselor such as David Gergen who has served Democratic and Republican presidents.
I suggest a dramatic presidential shakeup, openly stated without spin, clearly implemented in fact, publicly announced in an October surprise, going to voters in November with a program to regain the mantle of change that the president championed in 2008, which would inspire independents and rally Democrats in 2010.
A dramatic shakeup would vastly enhance public confidence in the Obama presidency. It would increase consumer and business confidence. It would encourage business to unleash the nearly $2 trillion that is now being hoarded and increase the lending and investment that is the surest path to a job-filled recovery.
If the president does not take dramatic action, he sends the signal “Vote for Democrats, you get more of the same.” And: “I am not listening.”
The president must learn what JFK learned, and do what JFK did, after the Bay of Pigs. All presidents make mistakes. The best presidents learn from mistakes, and make changes.
The 2010 campaign is leading to a closing dirt-dump that will further inflame an unhappy nation, followed by a new Congress that will be a partisan snake-pit of gridlocked impotence. This will even further outrage voters against everything they detest about a two-party system they believe is incompetent and corrupt.
The time is right for Mike Bloomberg. The nation is ready for leaders who rise above petty politics, who can run a business and manage a government without being bought, bossed, owned or rented by any interest or party.
The president can still return to his first principles of 2008. If he doesn’t, Mike Bloomberg or someone else will answer the call of a nation whose voters are shouting a primal scream for change, which the president and both parties ignore at their peril.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.