Election 2008  
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Obama on the Precipice: The Ten Worst Things He Could Do When He Takes Over

What will Obama do, and how could he screw it up, given the fact that pretty much everything is riding on him getting things right the first time?

As Inauguration Day approaches, the citizens of this country are on the edge of their collective seats waiting to see who the real Barack Obama is, and how he will step up to address the worst economic crisis since the Depression. Adding to his burden, Obama is following George W. Bush, who may go down as the most failed and destructive president in history.

As a result, in addition to the financial disaster, Obama inherits two wars and a huge array of counterproductive policies perpetuated by conservatives over the past eight years, many of which are making the resolution of our current problems far more daunting. Obama may very well be facing the most difficult challenges any new president in history has ever faced upon taking office. By any measure, he has an incredibly difficult task. 

Obama moves into the White House as a brilliant, attractive and popular figure, with enormous good will across the globe. But he immediately steps into a maelstrom of crises that have no clear solution, nor an obvious blueprint.

As the economy spirals downward, more people have become jobless in the past three months than have in 38 years, and many millions more Americans are losing their health care -- more than 50 million now. Simultaneously, many states are on the verge of bankruptcy as services in every sector rapidly deteriorate, and businesses across the board suffer setbacks and make layoffs. And every day of decline has the effect of less tax revenue and resources for services and governing, adding to the vicious cycle.

What should, and what will, Obama do? And how could he screw it up, given the fact that pretty much everything is riding on him getting things right the first time in the early stages of his administration? As we all wait to see what happens, there is no question that Obama, at least in terms of getting elected, has been a brilliant politician.

His election to the White House as a young upstart, half-white, half African, one-term senator from Illinois is probably the single most impressive electoral accomplishment in the past 100 years. But the big question on the table is how Obama translates his prodigious skills as a communicator, and his powerful mandate, into a governing strategy that can tackle the gargantuan problems on his plate?  

The Potential Perils of Post-Partisanship 

Obama's well-known and articulated penchant for post-partisanship and compromise, and the signals emerging from his team, suggest he is trying to thread the needle and find just the right combination to balance the political situation and keep everyone on his side. He and is team are also famous for saying, in their self-appointed "pragmatic," post-ideological way, that they only want to do what works.

But therein lies a massive contradiction in the Obama approach. Politico has reported that Obama wants 80 votes in the Senate in favor of his stimulus package, which means a good number of Republicans and the "Blue Dog" business-supporting Democrats voting aye. How many compromises for political expediency will need to be made to produce those votes, and will the expediency come at a cost of what works?

In terms of some of the specifics of the plan that have surfaced, it will contain somewhere in the vicinity of 40 percent in tax cuts. Are large tax cuts doing what works, or are they what will be attractive to the conservatives? As Bob Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future underscores, "tax cuts come in a distant second to public investment in actually creating jobs."