Obama Contrarian 2: Going It Alone

Kobe did it alone – brought the NBA Championship to LA as the lone and prime star of the Lakers[apologies to Fisher, Arizia, Pau Gasol, etc]. But that is the exception, not the rule. Pittsburg Penguins won Ice Hockey’s Stanley Cup with three stars – Sidney Crosby, Mark Andre Fleury, and Evgenii Malkin. The year before the Detroit RedWings won the Stanley Cup with the combo of  Henrik Zetterberg, Niklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk.

So given the crushing domestic and foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration, it is remarkable that President Obama has chosen to go it alone on so many major issues

In baseball, you will not win the World Series without at least one major starter and a relief closer on the pitching side and at least three clutch hitters in the 9-man line-up. Team sports, despite the inflated salaries are becoming “team-oriented” more and more. And in NFL football, the team that has recognized that reality  with no inflated or princely salaries, the New England Patriots, have done fabulously well given the injuries, losses to free agency  and retirements they have had to endure.

So given the crushing domestic and foreign policy problems facing the Obama administration, it is remarkable that President Obama has chosen to go it alone on so many major issues. That is partly because the Kennedy’s are dying off. It is partly because Joe Lieberman succumbed to overweaning ambition, Chuck Shumer and Chris Dodd drank too much financial-lobby Kool Aid. Meanwhile Governor Bill Richardson and  Senator John Edwards played themselves out stupidly, and Bill Clinton  … well Bill is in a cloud by himself. But Hillary is not, but so far she has sublimated herself on the Obama team. Joe Biden remains practically the lone voice of “candor” … and for that he is the butt of late night comics jousts.


So the administration desperately needs domestic policy leadership on problems like Energy, Manufacturing Job Resuscitation, Healthcare Reform [RIP: Tom Daschle], Educational Overhaul, etc. Yes, it is a second player but a real star or czar in the field. By czar, I mean a nationally respected expert that can a)help frame the debate; b)make major options transparent, accessible and of interest to the public and press; c)bring ideas and form  policy options for inclusion in legislations; and d)help shepherd the resulting legislation through Congress. It is a position that has real power like in the case of HP Chairman David Packard in the 1980’s or General George C Marshall in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.  But policy czar has a way of derailing or petering out as in the case of the 9/11 Commission.

But the whole problem is that there are so many wicked  problems [think Energy independence, Energy and Global Warming, Educational Reform to make US children competitive in a newly globalized World Job Market, Social Security solvency, Nuclear Non-proliferation, etc, etc]. And most of these problems are on the critical path such that within a short time they can explode into major crises. And so far on the domestic front, President Obama has chosen to go it alone. The result is that there is a dangerous tendency to move to opaque, elite and/or autocratic policy formation and  decision making just when the problems and the nation needs open and transparent.

Pin It on Pinterest