What's the Plan?

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    Lead photo A1 ObamaPresident Barack Obama inherited a messy economy from the dismal George W. Bush presidency. When he ran for president, the “Yes We Can” campaign” told us that Obama and his team were coming to Washington to change the game and put people at the center of everything that Washington does. And that includes jobs primarily.
        In his first presidential visit to Detroit in two years on Labor Day — a visit that was overdue for a city that is ground zero of the economic crisis — Obama hinted that creating jobs will include building bridges, something that would be a focus of his speech to the joint session of Congress Thursday evening, Sept. 8.
    We understand that Obama became president under difficult circumstances, at a  time when the nation was in two wars — Iraq and Afghanistan — and the housing crisis plummeted, leaving middle class and poor families behind.
    Rightfully so, the president disbursed a stimulus package that some of his economic advisors are now saying was not enough to really stimulate the economy.
    One now wonders what kind of advice those advisors were giving the president?  
    Did they really do the job for which they were appointed?
        Because of the worsening economic crisis currently taking a toll on the lives of everyday people across the country, including major urban centers like Detroit, Obama’s advisors are now admitting they did not do enough. His appointment of Ivy League scholars to oversee economic initiatives has not turned out realistic job results for the economy. That’sause he needs to appoint people who have really created jobs by running companies in this tough economy.
        His economic advisors should be people who have demonstrated that they know how to create jobs and have done just that, instead of plugging from the Ivy League to offer economic advice. Theories from the Ivy League, that often have no bearing on urban centers and other economically hard-pressed cities could not solve the economic malaise and put people to work. What we needs a pragmatic approach that has a results-oriented action program as its modus operandi.  
        For instance, Obama should appoint the CEO of Starbucks. Howard Schultz, to his Council of Economic Advisors who recently challenged his fellow CEOs to stop feeding the beast with campaign contributions and instead focus on creating jobs because “record levels of cash are piling up in corporate treasuries idling.” In response to Schultz’s challenge to corporate America, the CEO of Nasdaq, Robert Greifeld, said, “I think that Howard’s idea is a great one, and I told him that he can count on me.”   
        President Obama has stated on several occasions that the buck stops with him. Because of that, people want to see him take charge of the economy. Despite the impact of the Bush years on the current economy, people are bound to hold Obama accountable for the present state of affairs.
        Obama needs to take charge because the Republican leadership in Congress wants him to fail as they have repeatedly stated throughout the course of his term.
        Republican presidential candidate and Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann said, “We’re hoping that President Obama’s policies don’t succeed.”
        Rush Limbaugh, the conservative media god, said bluntly, “I hope Obama fails.”
        Republican Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell told the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, that their number one priority is to make Barack Obama a one-term president.
        Knowing that, Obama should be negotiating in the strongest terms instead of indicating his willingness to give in even before the negotiation even starts.
        Playing to the spirit of bipartisanship has its  merit sometimes, but in cases where the opposition is hell-bent on getting rid of you, it’s better to fight back. At least if you are going down in the polls, go down fighting hard.
        What that means is that we want to see candidate Obama who fought tooth and nail and told us  how he plans to create jobs. Candidate Obama knew how to fight back and win the support of his base. But President Obama sometimes seems willing to let the Republican leadership take charge.
        Candidate Obama told us “Yes we can” and President Obama is telling us “tell Congress” to address the economic crisis.
        Candidate Obama promised us that there would be a new era in Washington, but President Obama has presided over an economy that bailed out banks while  mainstream is still waiting to be bailed out. There are families waking up every morning in Detroit and elsewhere not knowing where their next meal will come from. Some of these families have children who were inspired by the “Yes We Can” campaign and hopeful about a future where their parents won’t come home and say they’ve been laid off.
        His charisma, message and poise as a candidate resonated well with his supporters. He needs his base  to run in 2012 and he can’t be fighting with that base at a crucial time of seeking reelection.
     When candidate Obama was running for office I wrote more than 30 front page columns in support of Obama explaining what his candidacy meant both in its historic significance and for the good of the nation. I recall in one column asking people to not let the color of candidate Obama’s skin trump the economy in their selection of the next president.
        I met with candidate Obama several times and every time we sat down for an interview he appeared resolute and ready to take his critics head on.  I always walked away with the assurance that though he wasn’t a perfect candidate, he understood the magnitude of the work ahead of him. He understood, too, that the historic nature of his candidacy placed an unfair burden on him.
        But he assured journalists like myself who encountered him up close that he was ready for the job and that he understood what the opposition would do to deter him.
        The Republican leadership has stripped away the veneer of respect that goes with the office of the president. Somewhere in this  rancorous political climate lies the undeniable fact that some of the resentment against Obama is because of his skin color.
        Obama was shouted at and called a liar by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson when the president appeared before a joint session of Congress.
        Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s refusal to call the president back after an hour and the antics that Boehner and his colleagues played during the debt ceiling negotiation showed they have no regard or respect for the president. During the Ronald Reagan era the debt ceiling was raised 17 times. But a different and condescending standard is applied to Obama during the debt ceiling debate.
        All of that is rooted in the plan to delegitimize Obama as president. Added to this distasteful and shameful treatment of the president is the fact that his presidential milestone, the health care law — designed to give health care to more than 30 million people — has increased the opposition against him. But Obama signed up for all of this when he decided to run for president. He accepted all the responsibilities, the honor and dishonor that comes with the job.
        The bigger question lies in what his advisors and strategists are thinking and how are they guiding the president through these tumultuous times.
        I believ
    e the president should have unveiled his jobs plan in a city where the economy is hardest hit before taking it to Congress. A single mother who has three children and shuttling between jobs would not have the time to watch a joint session of Congress jobs speech on television. The person would prefer the president show up in their city and reveal his plan.
        At an Asian journalists reception in Dearborn an editor of a major news outlet in Washington told me that there was no more strategy left in the White House.
        And the Democratic Party appears to be buying that narrative because some high priests in the party  like former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, a Democratic heavyweight and a Hillary Clinton disciple, are already cunningly drumming up a Hillary Clinton candidacy in 2016.
        “I think, and this is just my thinking, that if she leaves after the president’s first term is over and she teaches, does something like that, and rests, I think the possibility of being president and being the first woman president in history would probably be too much for her to resist,” Rendell told Politico.
        Have Rendell and others given up already? Is it their plan to let Obama lose in 2012 so Clinton can reemerge strong in 2016? Is that the reason why  some party leaders like Rendell and Nancy Pelosi have been silent in the battle with Republicans recently?
        Shouldn’t they be working hard  to get Obama reelected?  
        Senior editor Bankole Thompson is the author of “Obama and Black Loyalty Vol. 1” and his forthcoming books are  “Obama and Christian Loyalty” (October 2011) and “Obama and Jewish Loyalty” (January 2012). Listen to his weekly analyses on “The Craig Fahle Show” on WDET-101.9FM-NPR affiliate Thursday mornings. Hear him Sunday evenings on the “Obama Watch” roundtable program, on WLIB-1190AM-New York which is simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. E-mail him at bthompson@michronicle.com.

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