Memo to President Obama

While displaying your firm handshake, flex some muscles. In regard to his attempts at bipartisanship, President Barack Obama’s White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel was quoted in The Wall Street Journal stating that Obama “has an open hand, but he has a very firm handshake.”
Well, President Obama can’t display his “firm handshake” if no Republicans are willing to “reach” across the aisle. In the recent stimulus bill debate, no Republican in the House voted for the bill. None. The vote went down party lines with 246 for and 183 against; seven Democrats voted against. Republican support in the Senate was not much better, with only three Republicans supporting the bill. And this came even after compromises took billions of dollars out to make it more attractive for the Republicans to vote for it, such as sacrificing more money for food stamps. Because as we all know, poor people don’t use food stamps, they collect them.
How could the minority party show their strength by going against recovery during an economic crisis? Easy — all you have to do is let Democrats be Democrats. If there is anything that the Republicans deserve compliments for, it’s that they know how to stay on message and stay in-line. They easily took the message away from Democrats by saying that this bill would not resuscitate the economy. As a matter of fact, the bill was socialism incarnate. Think of all the bad things American socialism has brought us, like Medicare and Medicaid, social security and scariest of all, the post office.
Glenn Beck, a conservative commentator, ran commercials for his new show saying that there would be a different dialogue on his show. No socialist or communist name-calling. Oh no, name-calling is for political hacks and is part of the politics of old. His show debuted in January and now almost a month later on Feb. 4, he said, “Hey is [sic] anybody notice this crazy thing that we’re on the road to socialism. I’m just saying. Wow. We got, we got that [State Children’s Health Insurance Program] SCHIP thing going for us.” SCHIP, of course, was expanded to include four million more children. How dangerous.
Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have also been doing their best to bring down the new president, labeling whatever the president does as socialism and doomed to failure. Now some might say, “Well, this always happens, so what’s new?” That’s a fair point. No doubt President Bill Clinton received the same treatment from the far-right wingers, and he left office, (although bruised) with the highest popularity of any outgoing president post-WWII. So why worry? Well, that was then and this is now and the economy can get serious in a hurry. We can’t settle for stimulus bills that aren’t up to what the situation calls for.
Let’s remember that after Sept. 11 President George W. Bush enjoyed a 90 percent approval rating. People stood behind the president after the disastrous situation. His approval rating only started to come down after he, well, started becoming the President Bush that we all know and love.
This time, we are entering a disastrous period with people already committed to the failure of our new president. However, if he fails, who knows what will happen to our country. Will it be a Japanese-like “Lost Decade” or maybe even worse?
The point is that we can get ourselves out of this mess, but in order to do so President Obama needs to govern with a tougher approach. Define the agenda and then get results. He can’t let the party that has lost the last two elections tell people that spending money on our recovery is horrible after they drove us into trillion dollar deficits when we didn’t need it.
Obama should continue his bipartisan approach, but also make it known that he and his party won the last election. Obama has political capital and he needs to use it. He has the American people rooting for him. He needs to be assertive and not make quick, key concessions.
The Democrats and President Obama need Republican support because they don’t have a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. However, it remains to be seen whether Republicans will respond. They say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” What about elephants?

Jaye Estrada is a third-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at estradaj@uci.edu.