All right, this is a Conservative giving a Liberal advice. Maybe, I am the last person to give him advice, however sometimes the best advice comes from those on the other side. That said, if Obama focuses on the right matters, takes advantage of the incredible good will he has, then he has an opportunity to have a very successful first term.
1) In the first year, focus strictly on stimulating the economy.
I am already hearing some troubling things from the Obama camp. He has hinted that he intends to bring a bold agenda in his first year: universal health care, combating global warming, a new regulatory framework, etc. This would be a monumental mistake. The economy is in a state of chaos. Attempting to implement universal health care, cap and trade, and a plethora of new regulations would be disastrous for the economy. Can you imagine the financial industry having to deal with a slew of new regulations just as they are recovering from the mortgage nightmare? Can you imagine the nightmare to our economy if we are implementing a revolution in health care while banking, insurance, and the automobiles are struggling to survive?
Barack Obama's administration will initially be judged by the health of the economy. All he needs to do right now is do everything he thinks will facilitate a relatively quick and relatively painless recovery. If the economy is showing signs of recovery by the mid term elections, not only will the Democrats gain a bunch of new seats, but then he will gain his mandate to implement everything else that he wants. If he tries to do everything all at once, everything all at once will fail and he will be blamed for all of it, fair or not. If he implements universal health care now and the economy is still weak, the Republicans will blame this for the weakened economy, fair or not.
2) Make the bailout as transparent as possible.
He is big on posting everything on the internet. He should announce immediately that each and every penny paid to each and every financial institution will be posted on line. Furthermore, he should annonce that he demands that each and every financial institution that receives money post where each and every penny goes as a stipulation for receiving the money. The public has quickly lost confidence in the bailout and partially that's because they don't understand where it's all going. They think that this bailout is just a massive example of a boy's club. Full transparency will help resolve this loss of confidence.
3) Go to Europe and urge our allies to make a signficantly more consorted effort in Afghanistan
He has more good will in Europe than he has here. He should use this good will to urge that our European allies make a much larger contribution to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a battlefield that Obama is committed to winning. We need more troops but we also need our European allies to change their rules of engagement. Many of the European troops have defensive postures in Afghanistan. That makes their contributions nearly non existent. This war won't be won unless folks are ready to get their hands really dirty. We can either have American troops do this incredibly difficult, dangerous and deadly task alone, or we can have the Eoropeans share the risk. It's time for President Obama to parlay the good will and urge that they do.
4) Direct General David Petraeus to develop a strategy of counter insurgency in Afghanistan and leave it to Petraeus to execute it.
Barack Obama is a novice on foreign policy and military. General Petreaus is an American hero the likes of which we've rarely had. He directed a stunning turnaround in Iraq, and he can do the same in Afghanistan. Give him the order and he will follow it. He can and will do for Afghanistan what he did for Iraq.
5) Meet with the Europeans and urge that the Ukraine be immediately accepted into NATO along with Georgia.
Whether or not this request is received favorably, President Obama will learn a lot just from asking it. If the Europeans agree to fast track their entrance, the Obama knows that they are willing to confront Putin. If not, then he knows that once Putin needs to be confronted he will have to do it on his own. If Georgia and the Ukraine are accepted, then Putin knows that the Europeans will not allow him to walkover them anymore. If they aren't, then President Obama needs to make contingency plans for a one on one confrontation. Either way, President Obama will know the landscape when the eventual confrontation with Putin occurs.
6) Agree to honor Maliki's timeline immediately, but also announce a goal of a serious reduction in troops over the next year and a half.
We have nearly achieved victory in Iraq. The only thing that would threaten this victory would be a far too hasty withdrawal. Nuri al Maliki has given President Obama the political opening to make a withdrawal commitment without jeopardizing the victory. The Iraqis are about to agree to another three year term of American troops. Barack Obama should announce immediately that he intends to have nothing more than a few thousand advisors still in country after those three years are up. Furthermore, he intends to cut the number of troops significantly over the next year and a half. Such an announcement would allow Obama to massage between his fixed timeline, victory, and reality.
7) Announce immediately that 1) Patrick Fitzgerald will remain the Federal Prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois 2) he will veto the Fairness Doctrine if it is brought to him and 3) he will veto card check if it is brought to him.
There are plenty of folks that are worried that President Obama will help his corrupt buddies back home by quietly removing Fitzgerald who has crusaded against the likes of Tony Rezko, Rod Blagojevic and most of the Chicago area political structure. Making this announcement will make it clear that President Obama is not about to do any special favors for the corruption back home. By annoucing two and three, Obama also announces that he will not be directed by the far left.
If President Obama does all of this, he will have a wildly successful first term and ride a massive wave toward a second term. In fact, if he does all of this, I might have to think about voting for him next time.
Please check out my new books, "Bullied to Death: Chris Mackney's Kafkaesque Divorce and Sandra Grazzini-Rucki and the World's Last Custody Trial"