Jewish World Review Oct. 7, 2009 19 Tishrei 5770
Calling for Barack the Bold
By Roger Simon
He has lost the Olympics! (Which means half of Chicago is now cheering him.) He dared to leave the White House and go boldly where no president has gone before.
And he failed. Even some of his supporters say that going to Copenhagen, Denmark, to make a pitch to the International Olympic Committee was a mistake. Obama should never have risked it. To which I say: Baloney.
Barack Obama was not elected to be timid. His motto during the campaign was "change," not "cringe."
It is not all that important where the Olympics are held. (It is a TV show; who cares what country it is in?) What is important is the lesson Obama learns from his defeat.
The wrong lesson is: Take the easy path, play the safe bet, risk nothing.
The right lesson comes directly from Vince Lombardi: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."
Barack Obama was elected to do bold things. And in difficult times, boldness is needed most.
So what should he do now? First, he should be bold on health care. Congress is not a place where boldness happens. Congress is a place where boldness goes to die.
Obama needs to be bold in backing the public option. The White House did not anticipate that the public would actually care about the public option. But it does. The public option is not the choice of "left-wing" America. (Left-wingers want a single-payer plan, like Canada's.) The public option is the choice of mainstream America.
If you force every American to buy health insurance, thereby providing the health care industry with millions of new customers, you must have some way of controlling that industry's greed. (If you want to see what unchecked greed leads to, you need look no farther than Wall Street.)
Obama said in his speech to a joint session of Congress in September that the public option would "keep insurance companies honest." Without it, presumably those companies won't be.
But Obama has also said the public option is merely a "sliver, one aspect" of health care reform in America. And when the White House dithers a little, Congress dithers a lot.
Obama now needs to demand that Senate Democrats adopt the public option as part of their health care bill and summon all 60 of their votes to block a filibuster on it. (If, after stopping a filibuster, individual Democrats want to vote against the health care bill on its merits, that is fine. But there is no point in having 60 votes if you are not going to use 60 votes.) This is better than using the majority-vote tactic called reconciliation. Reconciliation risks all sorts of unintended consequences.
Internationally, the president needs to be bold on Afghanistan. He needs to boldly stand up to those generals calling for more troops and say no.
More troops in Afghanistan will not protect America from the terrorists. More troops in Afghanistan will merely put more Americans within easy reach of the terrorists. Though National Security Adviser Jim Jones rapped the knuckles of the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for calling for more troops publicly, it is not certain that Jones, a retired Marine general, actually disagrees with him.
"The key in Afghanistan," Jones told CNN's John King on Sunday, "is to have a triad of things happen simultaneously." In addition to security, Jones said, the country needs economic development and "good governance and the rule of law."
Oh, is that all? So I guess the troops will be home by Christmas. In 2099.
What the United States needs to do in Afghanistan is to continue to make sure al-Qaida cannot use it as a base of operations to strike at the United States.
What about making sure Afghanistan has "good governance and the rule of law"? I am not sure there are enough troops in the world for that. And even if the United States did possess such troops, foreign troops cannot prop up a corrupt and unpopular government indefinitely. It didn't work in Vietnam, and it won't work in Afghanistan.
What will work? What Joe Biden is advocating. According to The New York Times, Biden favors a plan in which "American forces would concentrate on strikes against Qaeda cells, primarily in Pakistan, using special forces, Predator missile attacks and other surgical tactics. The Americans would accelerate training of Afghan forces and provide support as they took the lead against the Taliban."
This is not the safest path politically. The safest path politically is to give the generals whatever they want. But that is not the path Obama should take.
As great a nation as we are, our powers are not unlimited. We cannot fight every war everywhere. We can help people fight for their countries, but we cannot fight for them.
And we need a president bold enough to say so.
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© 2009, Creators Syndicate