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PJM’s Post-Election Symposium: What Should Barack Obama Do Next? (Updated)

The American people sent a clear message to the president on November 2. Pajamas Media has asked a distinguished group of elected officials, journalists, and pundits for their suggestions on how Obama can "right the ship" and save his presidency. Today's panel includes Reps. Michele Bachmann and Darrell Issa, Gov. Rick Perry, and former Rep. Dick Armey; Check back all week long as more contributions are added. (UPDATE: Democrat Peter Fenn weighs in.)

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November 3, 2010 - 11:29 am

The American people sent a clear message to the president on November 2. PJ Media has asked a distinguished group of elected officials, journalists, and pundits for their suggestions on how Obama can “right the ship” and save his presidency.

Peter Fenn:

The first thing politicians should do after an election such as this one is listen. This goes for the Boehners and the McConnells as well as President Obama. In the 24/7 cable and blog cycle the tendency is to grab the microphone or the keyboard. Take a very deep breath. Think. Talk to people you don’t always talk to everyday.

Read more than the latest political news. Focus on something other than the next election, focus on the people’s business not your own political business. The time for Washington to understand that the frustration and fear that is out there is not just statistics and projections and comparisons, but palpable, is long overdue.

The mess that Wall Street greed and lack of oversight created nearly brought down not only our economy but the world’s as well. This wasn’t just a garden variety recession. This wasn’t a regular economic correction. This crisis was cataclysmic, not unlike 1929. This was not a case of too much government intervention but rather too little. This wasn’t created by a government that was holding business too accountable or putting too many restrictions on their activities, but rather, too few. The Securities and Exchange Commission, created after the great depression, was asleep at the switch. Treasury was not willing to blow the whistle on insane practices designed solely to make a precious few obscene amounts of money. Encouraging mortgages that were clearly toxic, bundling those mortgages as securities, selling the garbage to unsuspecting investors — it was all grotesque, as were the economic assumptions behind such pyramid schemes.

Thank God that Presidents Bush and Obama put in place the TARP program that is paying back the American people with interest; thank God they choose to do the unpopular thing and help the auto companies so that three million jobs and our manufacturing base were saved; thank God they provided aid to states that saved or created 3.3 million jobs, including those of police, firefighters, teachers.  This is something to applaud not to apologize for at the end of the day.

President Obama must also make clear that he understands the impact this economy is having on Americans’ lives, the fear they feel, their desire for real change, real fast.  He must be, first and foremost, the leader, the commander in chief, and the communicator in chief.  He must be willing to go out front and sit down one on one with  John Boehner and even Mitch McConnel, who seems to think his first priority is to defeat Obama for reelection.  This isn’t about the politics of 2012, it is about the policies that can deliver for people.

In the end, President Obama has one job, and that is to create an economic climate that is creating jobs.  He can juggle the other balls but he will be judged, fairly and unfairly, by whether or not this economy is on the upswing over the next two years. Ironically, if Republicans are rooting for failure, because it is in their best interests politically, they are betraying their oath of office. Ranting about government, when they, and we, are government, is useless and counterproductive.  Solve the problem. Make life better. Make our government work.  Now, it takes both sides to tango — it is time to start dancing.

– Peter Fenn is the president of Fenn Communications.  In 2008, he was a TV spokesman for the Barack Obama for President campaign.

Dick Armey:

I could sit here for hours and explain all the ways I disagree with our president. I could hope that two years of failed economic policies which have been rejected at the polls would make him reform his profligate ways.

But I know this is a fool’s errand. For all his campaign trail talk about ushering in an era of post-partisanship, Obama is an ideologue. Post-partisanship is the language of those who are set to assume power and they always call on the other side to join them in this new, high-minded crusade. And that’s the rub.

November 2 will not convince the president that his policies are wrong, nor can it convince him to work alongside Republicans to reduce the national debt, stop deficit spending, and work toward responsible government. I’m sometimes known for the axiom that there is nothing so arrogant as a self-righteous income redistributor. With President Obama this problem is profoundly evident.

But I hope at the very least this election gives him pause. Obama, once thought to be a great communicator, has lost his ability to connect to the American people. Since taking office Obama has become professor-in chief, lecturing Americans rather than understanding them. As a former professor of economics, I know the problem well.

Campaigns are about platitudes, classrooms are about theories — but running a country means recognizing where these abstractions fall short. If he sees why delivering his message has failed, he will realize why his policies failed. Obama, in message and policy, has been unwilling to reflect the will of the American people and this election shows that clearly.

If he hopes to win in 2012, Obama must bring his message back in line with the American people. While I doubt bipartisanship will return, the faintest signs of cooperation would be welcomed by the public and would do wonders for Obama’s image. I’ve always said: “It’s better to be pleasant surprise than a bitter disappointment.”

Dick Armey is former House majority leader and current chairman of FreedomWorks in Washington, D.C.

Michele Bachmann:

The captivation Americans had with Obama’s “hope” and “change” a mere two years ago has vanished. In fact, yesterday’s election results demonstrate a major referendum on the liberal policies of Washington’s Democratic regime. Instead of moving full-speed ahead, Americans have put the brakes on Pelosi and Reid’s progressive agenda. President Obama will finally be faced with resistance to his negative policies rather than a legislative rubber stamp.

Candidate Obama promised transparency and pledged to work across the aisle. But President Obama hasn’t met with House Republicans in almost a year. With two years remaining in his presidency, he cannot continue to ignore us. Obama must consider cooperation as we work to advance commonsense solutions to bring about limited government and fiscal stability.

The new House majority stands ready to defund Obamacare in the 112th Congress as we move towards a repeal of the whole monstrosity. Our nation cannot handle the impact this trillion-dollar bill will have on our bottom line; instead Republicans will introduce reasonable and affordable solutions. We will focus on worthy alternatives like tort reform or allowing users to buy health care across state lines. In addition, Obama will be directed to order Health and Human Services to cease running pro-ObamaCare advertisements on the taxpayer dime.

If President Obama requests any new government takeovers in the next two years, we will provide a resounding “no.” While GM and Chrysler struggle to repay their government bailout, Ford Motor Company announced $1.7 billion in third quarter profits last week. The majority will provide legislation to get out of the mortgage industry by cutting ties with Fannie and Freddie. Additionally, federal involvement in the student loan industry needs to end.

We look forward to working with President Obama on energy production within our borders. We have the greatest resources in the world available to us and energy independence is possible. While still ensuring the highest safety standards, Congress can legalize production of natural gas, clean coal, nuclear, hydro, petroleum, wind and solar energy without federal subsidies. Environmental policies must not circumvent the legislative process— regulations need to originate out of Congress, not from unelected officials at the Environmental Protection Agency who serve at the discretion of the president.

We will be happy to present a balanced budget to President Obama with no unnecessary spending increases or new taxes. During Pelosi’s speakership, our national debt increased by $5 trillion. We cannot continue burdening future generations with the dangerous spending habits such as the failed $787 billion “stimulus.” The majority will present clear policies to ease our dependence on China and look to grow stable economic conditions here at home.

President Obama, we realize today is a difficult day for you. The enthusiasm from 2008 is gone and your “hope” and “change” no longer inspire. When you are ready to work with us, you know where to find us. We will be down the road at the Capitol, defunding ObamaCare, implementing fiscal sanity, and bringing certainty to the marketplace, small businesses, and American families.

– Rep. Bachmann is the  Republican representative for Minnesota’s 6th congressional district, serving since 2007.

Darrell Issa:

Upon his inauguration, President Obama said, “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.” Since then, however, this administration has nurtured record growth in both government’s spending and influence in taxpayers’ daily lives.  And with more than 14 million Americans still unemployed and our national debt approaching $14 trillion, it is clear that Obama administration policymakers failed to understand the economic and psychological wounds big government inflicts upon our job creators. The federal government is too large and dysfunctional, as House Republicans and the citizens we serve have told the White House for two years. Last night, voters soundly rejected Washington’s excesses and sent a clear message: listen to us, stop growing government, and start cutting spending.

– Rep. Issa (R-CA) is the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Rick Perry:

As the election returns are certified and reality settles in for the Washington power structure, I believe President Obama should begin by acknowledging the message just sent by the American people. No matter where they come from or how their last name is spelled, Americans value freedom from excessive government interference and oppressive taxation. That desire was the heartbeat of our nation’s first settlers and it continues today in people of every race, creed, and political party.

If the president really wants to turn around the national economy, I would encourage him to take a long look at the approach we’ve taken here in Texas that has resulted in our leading the nation in job creation for the past ten years. We’ve operated from a comfortable grasp of the government’s legitimate role in the economy: establishing a level playing field, then stepping out of the way.

Call it the “Texas Fourstep” if you like, but our success has a lot to do with four basic guidelines that have informed our decisions for nearly ten years. First, we don’t spend all the money, so we have resources set aside for a rainy day. Second, we maintain a regulatory climate that is predictable, so employers don’t get whipsawed by unexpected changes. Third, we went to great lengths to reform our legal system, amending our constitution with genuine tort reform that has cut down on a plague of frivolous lawsuits that were crippling businesses and driving doctors out of state. Fourth, we have made our schools more accountable so that our young people are getting better prepared to compete for high tech jobs.

It boggles the mind to consider the effect those four simple rules could have on our nation’s economy in terms of job creation and freeing up the capital that business leaders have socked away. Such an approach allows employers to focus on creating jobs, attracting investment and building prosperity. Unfortunately, the president would be swimming upstream against decades of institutional inertia and a power structure designed to acquire more power, not necessarily do what is best for our citizens.

That is why the states are so important to the resurgence of our national economy. I believe our Founding Fathers got it right when they included the 10th Amendment in the Bill of Rights, knowing that the states are the real laboratories of innovation. Rather than look for centralized solutions, I would hope that the president would focus on pulling back the intrusive tentacles of the federal government to free up the states to thrive.

Even Texas would benefit from a smaller federal government. To me, smaller government would put an end to unnecessary and unproductive cap & trade legislation, intrusive health care changes, and the increasingly unpredictable actions of everyone’s favorite rogue agency, the EPA. So I will continue to work with our state leaders and my fellow governors from both parties  to encourage such changes as a way to get our nation back on track.

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas.

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