Authored by Marty Linsky on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at 12:18 PM | 8 Comments
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I was disappointed to read David Brooks column this morning. The usually cool-headed centrist seems to have lost it, ranting about Obama’s “transformational liberalism”.
Brooks is right that The President has not chosen between his long term domestic priorities and the need to stimulate the economic recovery now. Obama is placing a big bet that the recovery will happen soon enough and steeply enough so that he can have his cake and eat it, too.
If he’s wrong, policywise he will have to raise taxes on the middle class, postpone his domestic initiatives, or some of both. And politically, he is risking a Republican resurgence in the off-year elections of 2010 (see Clinton in 1994) and a one-term Presidency a la Jimmy Carter.
But Brooks falls into the trap of trying to understand Obama in conventional 20th Century liberal/conservative terms, when those labels now obscure more than they clarify.
There is the possibility that Obama’s transformational politics do not fit into that old paradigm at all, that we are in a period of transformation, yes, but part of that transformation is that the rules of the game have changed on almost every dimension. Maybe Obama is just trying to catch up with what is happening in the world, rather than being out in front of it. Maybe he is just practicing Reset.
I have read two books recently (on my Kindle, which has changed my life, the Kindle not the books, but more on that at another time), which are Reset books: Fareed Zakaria’s The Post-American World and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.
Zakaria posits a world in which the US is no longer the hegemonic power. As he says, “The tallest buildings, biggest dams, largest-selling movies, and most advanced cell phones are all being built outside the United States.” As an example of the consequences, see Obama’s letter to Russia trying to make a deal to enlist Russia in the effort to control Iran. And see Hillary Clinton transparently sending two enjoys to Syria Obama understands Reset. Zakaria blogs with David Ignatius on the Newsweek/Washington Post’s PostGlobal.
Pollan writes about taking responsibility for what we put into our bodies, with the interrelated goals of taking care of ourselves, saving the planet, and pressuring the food industry to a higher standard of quality, transparency, and scientific credibility. But what is exciting about Pollan’s Reset, is that you and I can start our own version today. If each of us started insisting on eating only -or even mostly- what Pallan calls “real food” (locally grown, in season, unadulterated by chemicals) it would not be long before the food industry would start responding.
Here’s an example of what Pollan is talking about. A good friend and former colleague, Karen Lehman, runs Chicago’s Fresh Taste Initiative, a non-profit organization that fosters collaboration between farmers, for-profit entities and government agencies to bring fresh, sustainable products to consumers’ tables, along the lines of the “farm-to-table” movement that’s been taking off in the last couple years. It is Reset in action.
Pollan’s blog through the New York Times is called On The Table.
What’s your favorite Reset idea of the day? Send it to me.
My favorite today? Courtesy of Lynn Staley, my wife: Doctors in Maine are being trained as dentists to address the scarcity in rural parts of the state.
And again, since Reset is a leadership idea, check out the Washington Post blog On Leadership as well. This week’s question was whether Obama’s refusal to spell out the details of a health care plan and force the Congress to do that work was an exercise of leadership or an abdication of responsibility. What do you think?