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What Will The President-elect Try For First?

Saturday, November 8, 2008  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

Greetings from cold and wet Chicago, where the celebration over President-elect Obama’s win has moved indoors.

Dinner last night with an Obama-backer who is part of the vast Obama network in the Windy City, and an expert on alternative fuels.

“What will he shoot for first?” is the question I asked him and every other Democrat I know or come across.

Like the others, my old friend doesn’t know, and recognizes the danger of shooting too high or far to the left too soon. Plus, there is little money for anything that is not obviously stimulus-related..

The feds can, of course, print money and it isn’t a bad thing to do when deflation is even a remote possibility. Significant public works –if they can get built over environmentalist objections– are a great place to start if you are a new president seeking to cement your coalition, as is some aspect of health care “reform,” though that will call out every deep division among Dems as well as thousands of lobbyists.

No one I have asked agrees with me, but I think the Obama Administration would be wise to try and jam through a quick immigration reform package that both regularizes the vast majority of illegal aliens already here but also delivers on the fence that the Bush Adminstration has, inexplicably, managed to barely get underway. Pushing on the immigration issue means delivering to one of the key constituencies that gave him the White House while also tempting some Republicans on the margin of the debate to renew their self-destructive rhetoric on the issue. Leading your institutional opponents into another meltdown while rallying your broad base seems to be a sure winner for Obama.

Whatever direction they strike out in, expect to see many on Team Obama carrying around Jonathan Alter’s The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.

The Defining Moment: FDR's Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

The legislation passed by FDR and his landslide Congress did not in fact end or even greatly dent the Great Depression, but the political genius of the moment was to generate an enduring myth and great momentum through the constant pressure of legislative activity. The president-elect will waste a huge opportunity to form a public image if he sits back and plays small ball with an executive order here and a presidential commission there.

The GOP had better be up and ready to respond with substance and a coordinated voice to whatever is unveiled as the new agenda of the new president. Every initiative will be an opportunity to distinguish and define the key differences between the parties moving forward. Letting the back benchers define the GOP on any issue –and especially on immigration reform if it surfaces– will be disastrous for a party in need of political discipline and intellectual renewal.

An note: I was off yesterday and many have e-mailed to note that the “song of the week” from apparently did not get played, so “Please Believe Me” by Darrin Kohavi will get its spin on Monday’s program. Don’t blame the talented Carol Platt Leibau who filled in for me –I neglected to leave her a note on the new feature of the Friday program.

If you are an independent musician who wants to see if your tune can win the weekly competition, upload it at I use the site for bump music all week long, and play the highest rated song of the week on Fridays.

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