Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama's Pragmatic Centrism

PerryScope by Perry Diaz

Branded by the Republicans during the campaign as the most liberal presidential candidate in US history, President-elect Barack Obama is just about to prove that he would be the most pragmatic President since Ronald Reagan. While Reagan was the conservatives' conservative and Obama is the liberals' liberal, they seem to share a common philosophy that pragmatic centrism is the only way to govern all Americans, conservatives and liberals alike.

In the first 30 days since his stunning victory, Obama has demonstrated -- to the chagrin of liberals and to the relief of conservatives -- that he is charting his presidency right in the middle, hardly veering to the left or right. His selection of his cabinet members and inner circle of advisers has dispelled the notion that he is going to change America into a socialistic society… of "spreading the wealth around." Change he will, but in his own terms and right along his vision of what America should be in the 21st century. And that vision is beginning to crystallize itself in recent days.

And in recent days as well, critics -- particularly the Republican National Committee --have come out of the woodwork pronouncing to the whole world that the Obama phenomenon is not going to change the world but will keep the status quo. They're saying that Obama is going to be an extension -- or a remake -- of the Clinton presidency. On the surface, the nay-sayers may be right but if you look at it closely, it's not going to be anything like a Clinton, Bush or Reagan presidency; it's going to be a change-driven Obama presidency. Interestingly, reactions from Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill have been anywhere from a lukewarm wait-and-see to a warm reception, a positive sign that Congress might give him a easy pass on his legislative agenda.

What Obama is obviously doing is putting together a team of intelligent people with extensive experience and proven track records of getting the job done. There is no substitute to experience, particularly the "right experience." And all of those whom he had chosen so far have the "right experience" which he needed to pursue the change he envisioned for America.

Obama is like a great composer -- a maestro -- who has assembled the best and the brightest musicians of his time to play a musical score arranged to create the symphonic movements that he desire. Indeed, what Maestro Obama has been doing in the selection of his team members is to fulfill the change that he promised the American people. And right now, the American people have high hopes -- and unswerving confidence -- that Obama would make things happen to benefit all Americans.

Indeed, less than a month since his election, Obama has already laid the groundwork for his administration. He has put into motion the development of a stimulus package -- to the tune of $500 billion a year -- to jumpstart the economy and get America moving again. It is expected that this stimulus package -- which would put 2.5 million Americans to work -- would pass Congress and be ready for his signature after taking his oath of office on January 20, 2009; thus, fulfilling his goal to "hit the ground running" on "Day One" of his presidency.

In addition to his cabinet appointments, the most important that Obama has put together so far is his Economic Advisory Board which consists of some of the best minds in the country. In a press conference the day before Thanksgiving, he explained that his choice of experienced, centrist men and women for his inner circle would help him implement the change he promised the American people. He defended his choices by saying that it "would send the wrong message to the nation if he stocked his cabinet with newcomers, especially given the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the deepening economic crisis."

As a wartime president, Obama is going to inherit two wars, one of which he never supported and which he promised to end in 16 months. But faced with the dilemma of winding down the unpopular war in Iraq and pursuing a must-win war in Afghanistan, Obama has adroitly opted to retain Bush's Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. The worse thing that he could do is to change horses in midstream or worse… upstream.

In a press conference last December 1, 2008, Obama announced the appointment of five high-caliber persons to his national security team. They are Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Eric Holder as Attorney General, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as Secretary of Homeland Security, Robert M. Gates as Secretary of Defense, retired Gen. James L. Jones as National Security Adviser. Clinton is considered centrist while Gates and Jones are apolitical but centrists as well. Jones was a decorated Vietnam veteran and former commander of all NATO forces which included deployment of NATO forces in Afghanistan. Obama said, "The time has come for a new beginning, a new dawn of American leadership to overcome the challenges of the 21st century. We will strengthen our capacity to defeat our enemies and support our friends. We will renew old alliances and forge new and enduring partnerships." If that is the gist of his foreign policy, he couldn't have picked better people for his national security team.

Faced with daunting challenges in the final months of the lame duck presidency of George W. Bush, Obama couldn't afford to just wait in the wings until January 20, 2009. With the apparent leadership "vacuum" in the White House, Obama has to take the bull by the horn and start the process of rebuilding the economy himself. Indeed, his "take charge" initiative while Bush is cocooned somewhere would help decelerate the fast-plunging economy at this crucial time of transition of power.

Indeed, there is a new ballgame in Washington, DC. The head coach is Barack Obama -- an avid basketball player-- and the only play he knows to execute is "offense." It is said in the world of sports that "the best defense is a good offense." The same mantra may be applied to world politics, especially in this time and age.

It's time for someone to change the rules of the game of world politics and Obama has the right vision -- and determination -- to do it. And as he takes center stage in a world fraught with violence and dwindling resources, it behooves the American people to give him their unyielding support. After all, it is the people who would benefit most if Obama succeeds in his mission to bring change to America.