He's got miles to go, but so far Obama is delivering on the change he promised.
And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.
—Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince (1532)
Keep yo’ enemies close … watch yo’ homies.
Niccoló Machiavelli wrote a letter to Lorenzo II de Medici, in which he presented his realist (some would say cynical) treatise on government, which was published later as The Prince. The theories of government presented in the book were abhorrent to thechurch, the ruling power at the time, and they earned Machiavelli the dubious distinction of having his name become synonymous with underhanded, duplicitous, conniving behavior, particularly in politics.
More than 450 years later, Makaveli (Tupac Shakur) promoted ideas that many regarded as shocking, and he found himself in deep trouble with the authorities of his time. What the two men shared across the centuries was an insistence on analyzing the world as it is not as it ought to be. That is a particularly useful and necessary skill in these times of endless analysis.
Machiavelli’s letter was intended to demonstrate his suitability for employment in de Medici’s court. Unlike Machiavelli, I have a job. So this missive is not an attempt to gain employment, but it’s intended as an honest reflection on the first 100 days of President Obama’s administration. Like both Machiavelli and Makaveli, I insist on describing the administration as it is, not as we hope (or feared) it to be.
The president’s final judgment will be on how he handles the economy. Despite the wars, the torture scandal, Southern governors, once again, musing about secession and the resurgence of a violent, extreme right wing (who are actively recruiting in the military), it’ll be the economy that will decide his success or failure.
While critics bemoan the fact that Obama has been able to “solve” the worst post-war recession in his three short months, we now have enough information to begin an assessment of the amazing flurry of policy proposals and economic initiatives that have emerged from the administration in that time.
President Obama has had to address several areas of economic concern at once. The most critical is the inherited recession that he is now attempting to address through his economic stimulus plan and his first proposed budget. The meltdown in the financial sector is another grave component of the economic crisis, and the White House has settled on a variety of initiatives and bailouts to address that part of the problem. Finally, the enormous size of the nation’s debt is provoking substantial unease in the world’s capitals—particularly Beijing.
There are some stellar components of the president’s plan. In particular, the budget is a masterwork that, if passed, would dramatically aid the economic recovery, lay the foundation for national investment in the future and progressively transform government policies so that the nation becomes both more humane and productive. The budget is probably the single initiative that best represents the aspirations of the Americans who elected President Obama.
With dramatic proposals to improve education, protect the environment and transform health care, President Obama’s budget is the change that Candidate Obama promised.