Advice to Obama: Heads Must Roll


My first prediction of the Obama presidency was that he wouldn’t pull it off — wouldn’t take sufficiently bold action, that is, to address the present extreme circumstances. That appears to be accurate. There is no denying that, by historical standards since the Great Depression, he has taken remarkable measures. But I saw him surrounding himself with moderates, and I speculated that, most likely, these would not tend to be the people who would throw the baby out the window and dive out after it if the house was on fire. Moderation and caution are great, in many circumstances. But there are times when you just don’t screw around, and that seems to be where we are.

A month ago, in my other blog, I did advise Obama to play it cool, to stay above the fray. But I didn’t mean that he should meet every circumstance with a desultory, Milquetoast placidity. Right now, people are looking to the government for firm, convincing leadership. Somebody needs to get punched in the nose. People are crying out for blood. Some heads must roll.

That doesn’t necessarily imply sadism. No need to throw anyone to the lions. But throwing them to the prosecutors, or giving them the bum rush, is a different matter. It was sobering, last week or so, to see big-city mayors laughing at Obama’s threat to “call them out” if they wasted his stimulus money. They weren’t too worried. One of them said, “We get called out all the time.” Somewhere, somehow, sometime, a president has to have some teeth.

Muscles get stronger from actually using them. Political power accrues to those who already have power. Mere admonitions and statements of concern can very quickly get this president back into Jimmy Carter territory, with his pronouncements about the “Moral Equivalent Of War” — which was quickly and justly shortened to “MEOW.” Obama has been doing a marvelous job of following the examples of presidents like Roosevelt and Reagan. But perhaps he could also learn a bit from Lyndon Johnson.


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