The Obama administration's early leadership vacuum isn't confined solely to various problems of nominees exposed -- or not -- during the vetting process.
No, it extends onto the legislative side as well. So far, Obama's team has only stated in general terms its priorities. It directed the Senate to release the second $350 billion half of the TARP funds. He has since urged the passage of the stimulus package -- first in the House, now in the Senate.
During the debate in the House, Obama was seen wooing Republicans. However, there's been no indication on what the president's priorities are. He seems to be the go-along, get-along sort. Rather than declaring what the "root" or foundation of a bill is, Obama is just letting each chamber add its own wish list and chime in if the media ends up putting a none-too-friendly spotlight on some aspect of the bill. In the absence of presidential leadership, Congress has been going hog-wild. And the president has had to try cleaning/clearing things up.
That happened two weeks ago during the controversy over whether contraceptives should be part of the stimulus package (another combination of words that make that last sentence sound dirtier than it should have been). Not liking how the coverage was playing, Obama conveyed to the House leadership that he wanted the provision removed.
And then, this week, the country got blasted by foreign leaders in the European Union and Japan, because of "Buy American" proposals in the stimulus package. The House version requires that public works projects in the stimulus package be built with only US iron and steel. The Senate's version goes even further -- making it apply to all manufactured goods. In interviews this week, Obama sounded like he wanted to water down -- if not eradicate -- the "Buy American" language, but was hardly clear.
Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that stimulus package had gotten so huge that it was beginning to crumble under its own weight.. Two senators are trying to reduce the bloated package by $200 billion.
True, the Constitution states that legislation begins in the Congress and the president signs the bills. But the White House has tremendous power in creating a blueprint for what should be in the final package. There's no sense that that has occurred in this process.
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The President should be leading the parade, specifically articulating what he wants -- not being placed in a position of cleaning up a congressionally-created mess.