A Case for Hope

Lots of people I know are deeply depressed as they watch the Dow spiral down toward 7000 -- I'm no less gloomy when it comes to the market because we've been been riding it down, too. And I'm no stock market guru (if such a thing exists), so I have no idea when things will turn.

But I'll tell you what gave me supreme hope Monday: watching Obama conduct what amounted to a national teach-in at the end of his Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House. Find the clips on You Tube and watch them. (Start here, here, here, and here.) Obama led a conversation about our fiscal and economic challenges with a hundred or so assembled pols and other community and interest group leaders, and in its seriousness, civility, candor, and humor, it was a thing to behold.

He called on John McCain first, led the conversation through assorted Democratic and Republican leaders, including GOP House leader Eric Cantor (who clearly looks in the mirror each morning and imagines he sees the next Newt Gingrich). Obama's masterful framing of the issues, the respect and deftness with which he treated and integrated all views, his shrewdness in knowing how much coveted national TV airtime he was giving even to those who disagreed with him...all of this amounted to a new model of presidential leadership that I think we're going to see much more of.

Obama is trying to create a climate in which our real long-term challenges can actually be talked about and addressed. These necessarily involve finding ways both parties can work constructively together, in spite of their simultaneous ambition to clobber the other at the polls. This bipartisan gambit - a determination to create a new space in our political culture where real problem-solving can take place across party lines -- is at the core of Obama's real audacity (a point I argue in a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday, and which I think many liberals who've bashed Obama's GOP outreach have failed to appreciate).

It gives me real hope even amidst the bad economic news because Obama's eye is plainly on long-term problem solving -- which is what our economy needs -- no matter the day to day fears and rumors that hold so many Wall Street traders in their myopic grip.


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