Despite missteps, Obama signals a change for better

In these early weeks of the new Obama administration, the president and his team have made a few missteps while recruiting managers and staff for the executive branch. Obama offered an insight into the new openness of his presidency by appearing on five television news shows Tuesday night and acknowledging some of his early mistakes, most notably the incomplete vetting of three high- level appointees, one of them being former U.S. senator and longtime Obama friend and supporter Tom Daschle.

When it was revealed that Daschle, the nominee to head Health and Human Services, had not paid taxes due on corporate-sponsored limousine services over a number of years, he did the right thing by asking to have his name withdrawn for the job.

In his network interviews, a candid Obama took the blame, saying directly, "I screwed up." Wouldn't it have been wonderful to have heard those three words from George Bush and his team at some time over the last eight years!

In his campaign, Obama repeatedly said he would challenge the ways of the nation's capital, that real change for the country required a radical change in the way Washington politics is practiced inside the Beltway. In his 2007 announcement speech that kicked off the campaign, he said, "I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change." And despite the venerable axiom that the more things change, the more they stay the same, the president's recent actions can be seen as a refreshing sign of more change to come.

He has assembled a team that includes three Republicans in cabinet posts, a huge departure from past partisan practices. He also has reached out to members of Congress of both parties, and several times has visited Capitol Hill where he presented his case for support of his economic stimulus plan. All these steps are hopeful signs, signaling that the president plans to govern from the center, far from the ideological extremes of left and right.

Now every citizen should understand that there are three equal branches of government - the executive, the legislative, and the judicial - and each has its unique responsibilities, ensuring checks and balances between the three. As Obama has tackled the urgent problems caused by the current economic recession, he has put forward a set of proposals that he believes will deal with the problems.

For its part, the task for Congress is not to rubber stamp the president's program, but rather to review and discuss its substance and details and suggest alternatives.

The House and the Senate should deal responsibly with his proposals, suggest whatever changes they believe are necessary, and then move the legislation forward. The president says it's urgent that he have a bill on his desk to sign into law by the end of this month. Let's hope the Congress doesn't resort to delaying tactics just to make cheap political points.

At the end of the day, Barack Obama was the choice of the majority of the voters, who by their ballots collectively endorsed the concept of change. While compromise is always possible, what cannot be forgotten is that there are more and more Americans suffering with each turn of the clock. Americans have elected 537 politicians - the president and vice president and the members of Congress - to lead the way back to stability.

We will judge them by how they perform at this time of great need for responsive and intelligent government.


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