By Brent Budowsky - 10/23/13 09:42 PM EDT
Congress appears to most Americans to be a ship of fools that careens between self-created fiascos and dysfunctional disasters. The Obama presidency, which a majority of Americans deeply want to succeed, appears adrift like a rudderless ship at the mercy of shifting tides, without a captain who charts a confident course or a map that guides to a final destination.
President Obama won a resounding reelection in 2012 without a vision, strategy or plan for great achievements in a second term. He had given much thought to defeating his opponent in 2012, but apparently much less thought to what he could achieve — and how he could achieve it — during his second term.
As the latest weak monthly jobs report was released and the latest Washington fiasco over Obama-Care unfolds, official Washington drifts through reruns of chaos and crisis while Obama drifts through ad hoc responses to events generated by others. The president allows our national discourse to be dominated by the agenda of his Tea Party opponents and his reaction to them, without any compelling call to action emanating from the Oval Office.
Responding to the problems of the ObamaCare exchanges, the president did not sound like the CEO of his government. He sounded like a bystander, expressing anger at unnamed other people.
Despite appalling levels of joblessness in America, with so many workers being so depressed they’ve dropped out of the workforce entirely, for nearly four years, the president has been largely a bystander who has not fought to rally the nation to support a major jobs plan.
Jobs were not even on the president’s list in his recent statement of his three priorities — jobs should be first on his list!
The president should insist that a major program to rebuild America’s roads, ports, bridges and schools be included in the current bipartisan negotiations. He should address the nation from the Oval Office to promote this plan. That is what presidents do to champion matters they believe are paramount. The public would support him, but first the president must ask, forcefully and powerfully.
With the ObamaCare exchange rollout obviously mismanaged, Obama should remember that he is the CEO of his government. He should be angry at himself, his staff and his administration for mismanaging his program and failing to protect his legacy.
It would be easy, but wrong, to fire Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. She dropped the ball, but there are many culprits in this temporary setback.
Scapegoating is no solution. The president should take personal responsibility. Public approval would soar for anyone in Washington who takes responsibility for anything!
It was obvious long ago that the Affordable Care Act is complex. The president and his chief of staff should have demanded regular status reports and a much longer beta test.
They should have heeded warnings from friends. Congress should have performed far better oversight. Staff that worked on ObamaCare should have stayed, finished the job and not raced through revolving doors to make big bucks from banks, healthcare firms and British conservatives.
The president should extend the date for open enrollment. If problems cannot be quickly fixed, rather than force-feed another half-baked federal rollout, the president should agree to delay the individual mandate and get the rollout right the second time around. Mistakes are OK. Doubling down on mistakes is not OK, as House Republicans recently learned the hard way.
Obama can end the drift plaguing his second term. He should champion a clear, confident and convincing program to Congress and voters from now through the 2014 elections.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and ex-Rep. 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.