Thursday, September 3, 2009

Obama and Reform Leadership

Jean Edward Smith, author of a recent biography of FDR, writes in the Times today with a reminder to President Obama about reform leadership in a divided country:

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S apparent readiness to backtrack on the public insurance option in his health care package is not just a concession to his political opponents — this fixation on securing bipartisan support for health care reform suggests that the Democratic Party has forgotten how to govern and the White House has forgotten how to lead.

This was not true of Franklin Roosevelt and the Democratic Congresses that enacted the New Deal. With the exception of the Emergency Banking Act of 1933 (which gave the president authority to close the nation’s banks and which passed the House of Representatives unanimously), the principal legislative innovations of the 1930s were enacted over the vigorous opposition of a deeply entrenched minority. Majority rule, as Roosevelt saw it, did not require his opponents’ permission. . . .

Jean Edward Smith, "Roosevelt: The Great Divider," New York Times, 2 September 2009.

see also Jean Edward Smith, FDR (New York: Random House, 2007). See Jonathan Yardley's review in the Washington Post.

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