CommunityFDL Main Blog

The People Want Real Leadership

An open letter to President Obama:

“People are so thirsty for real leadership they will crawl across the desert for it and when they find out it’s a mirage they will drink the sand.”

I ought to needlepoint that quote on a pillow for the Oval Office for you. You campaigned on hope, to people who wanted meaningful change.

You said that you wanted health CARE reform, not health insurance mandates, but when the time came to articulate to Congress what you wanted to see in the draft bills, you took a back seat and let the two chambers come up with incompatible bills. For goodness sake, you let Sen. Max Baucus take the lead on the Senate bill and dawdle for months. Mr. President, it was supposed to be YOUR vision for health care reform, not his. Max Baucus isn’t our president, you are.

Now, after having promised to restore the independence of the U.S. Department of Justice, you are not supporting the U.S. Attorney General’s decision to hold the trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed in the federal courthouse in Manhattan, close to Ground Zero. This despite the fact that the U.S. Marshall’s Service — guys who will be putting their own lives on the line moving this prisoner around — have determined that the SDNY courthouse is the safest place to hold the trial.

Instead, you have non-lawyers and non-marshals at the White House running around infecting this decision with tawdry politics. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel isn’t president, you are.

And if you want to close Guantanamo, do it.  And do it faster than Sen. Lindsey Graham can pass his “strip the money” legislation. Once it’s a fait accompli, it will be too late to deny funding.  Allowing Graham to dictate whether or not civilian trials can be held is nothing short of non feasance in office on your part. Lindsey Graham is not the president, you are.

The list goes on and on. During the campaign, you laid out a whole series of policy initiatives. People didn’t elect you because they liked YOU; they elected you because they liked the policies you were proposing.  I assume that you actually thought about those policies and decided you actually liked them before campaigning on them. Mr. President, you must support your own decisions.

Anyone who has ever read this blog knows that I have no love for George W. Bush. In his entire presidency, he only got one thing right. He knew how to be decisive. Right or wrong, once he decided to do a thing, he didn’t let anyone or anything get in his way (until his wrong decisions got overturned in court). I‘m not suggesting that you go off half-cocked, or that you make every single thing a “my way or the highway” contest; but there are some things important enough to fight for.

In your case, it might not even take a “fight.” Just a “get out in front of the crowd, point in the direction you want to go and march toward the goal” kind of leadership. You have a golden tongue, and the post-presidential campaign activist group Organizing for America has an email list of millions.

If you want real health care (not health insurance) reform, scrap the piece of **** bill in the Senate and go tell them what you want to see in a new bill. If you have to roll up your sleeves and get out a pencil and help the write it, then maybe you should do that. Think it’s too risky? You could not fail on health care more than you already are.

You want to restore American rule of law and the international prestige that comes with that? You go to New York City, put up a sound stage in Foley Square and tell the people why it is legally and morally necessary to hold the KSM trial there and that, no matter the nay saying of cowards back in Washington, you will act upon the expertise of the lawyers of the Justice Department and the lawyers of the Department of Defense and the security experts of the U.S. Marshal’s Service. These people are experts in their fields, and the president should not only be able to rely upon that expertise, but should also publicly endorse that expertise.

I know you get accused of not being tough on terror, but I think the polling that trends that way has less to do with your terror policies, than with the incredible timidity and excessive deference you keep showing towards Congress. Look, the Constitution gives Congress enormous power; they don’t need help from you in holding or wielding power. However, the people of this country elected YOU president. You don’t need permission from Congress to be a president, you already are the president.

The people are looking to you to lead; to toughen up and go out there and do the things you promised on the campaign trail. In the absence of real leadership, the populist anger out there can be co-opted by the likes of Dick Army, who’s trying to manipulate the tea party movement, or even by a grifter like Sarah Palin. Talk about a mirage of leadership — sheez!

People aren’t angry with Democrats because they failed to pass a health care bill. People are angry with Democrats because they came up with something which they had the nerve to call a health care bill, that was really giant piece of corporate welfare that would do little to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.

People aren’t mad at Democrats just because they continued the bail out of Wall Street, they are mad that the bailout came with almost no strings attached, and with no regulatory reform.

People aren’t mad because you have proposed unqualified or outrageous nominees ( you didn’t) , they are mad because you have allowed those nominees to wither on the vine for months, while the important work they are supposed to be doing, goes undone. Yeah, I’m talking about DOJ Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen right now, too. You have that recess appointment power for a reason.

The people of this country elected you to lead them. It’s time to toughen up and get to the leading part.

Previous post

Happy Valentine's Day, Blenders!

Next post

Food Sunday: Sunday Morning Frittata

Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril

Cynthia Kouril is a former Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York under several different U.S. Attorneys, former counsel to the Inspector General for the N.Y.C. Department of Environmental Protection where she investigated threats to the New York City water supply and other environmental crimes, as well as public corruption and fraud against the government, former Examining Attorney at the N.Y.C. Department of Investigation and former Capital Construction Counsel at New York City Parks and Recreation.
She is now in private practice with a colleague whom she met while at the USA Attorney's Office. Ms. Kouril is a member of the Steering Committee, National Committeewoman and Regional Coordinator for the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, a member of the Program Committee of the Federal Bar Council and a member of the Election Law Committee at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She is active in several other Bar Associations.
Most important of all, she is a soccer mom.