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#advice2012

  • by Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis
  • 1

The Oval Office of the White House in Washington pictured Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Introduction

His hard-fought reelection campaign behind him, President Barack Obama is undoubtedly taking stock of the opportunities and challenges that await him in his second term.

To help us understand those key issues, we turn to two people with broad experience in state and national politics, and the challenges of being an elected chief executive. One is a close, personal friend of the president – the other was the Democratic nominee for president himself. Both have the distinction of having served as governor of the Commonwealth.

In the final installment of our series, Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis offer their thoughts on how best to leverage the power of the presidency.

Deval PatrickDeval Patrick is governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As he launched his improbable campaign for president 5 years ago, my advice to the then-junior senator from Illinois was, “Run like you’re willing to lose.”

As he launched his improbable campaign for president 5 years ago, my advice to the then-junior senator from Illinois was, “Run like you’re willing to lose.”

By that I meant, trust the voters by telling them what your core convictions are and why you want to be president. If you do, they’ll respect you for that authenticity, for not trying to outsmart them into voting for you. Barack Obama did just that in 2008, and again in 2012; I believe it’s why he won both elections and is so highly trusted by Americans.

One of the great second term advantages for any chief executive is a better appreciation of where all the levers of power are and how to use them. It’s one reason I expect the relationship between President Obama and Congress to change even though last month’s election did not dramatically alter the makeup of Congress. I think you can see it already: The “fiscal cliff” negotiations suggest the icy gridlock of the past 2 years is melting.

Gov. Patrick introduces President Barack Obama at a fundraising event in Boston, Weds., May 18, 2011. (Steven Senne/AP, File)

Gov. Patrick introduces President Barack Obama at a fundraising event in Boston, Weds., May 18, 2011. (Steven Senne/AP, File)

Some Democrats disagree, but I support a “grand bargain” that raises taxes on the most fortunate, reforms programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to put them on firmer fiscal footing, and spends in key areas (education, research and infrastructure) to stimulate our economy. That way we get both growth and deficit reduction. Who better than the Democrats to take the steps necessary to preserve and protect some of the proudest legacies of our party and our country? And what better time to do so than with a newly re-elected president at the peak of his powers?

We can remain faithful to the “true North” of our convictions, while negotiating our way around the “swamps” that would swallow up progress. That’s a lesson Congressman Thaddeus Stevens learned from Abraham Lincoln, as depicted in the film, “Lincoln.” It’s a lesson this president knows well; and it’s one of the reasons I’m so hopeful about the next 4 years.

DukakisA three-time governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, Michael Dukakis is a professor of political science at Northeastern University.

This is a fundamentally moderate country, and last month’s election confirmed it. As long as President Obama keeps explaining to the American people why he’s doing what he’s doing — and keeps listening to them as he did throughout the campaign — he’ll be fine.

During his campaign for president, Gov. Dukakis waves to supporters at a rally in Los Angeles, Ca., Oct. 15, 1988. (Doug Mills/AP)

During his campaign for president, Gov. Dukakis waves to supporters at a rally in Los Angeles, Ca., Oct. 15, 1988. (Doug Mills/AP)

Hopefully, by reaching an agreement with House Republicans on taxes and spending that includes modest income tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans, the president will finally break the “no new taxes” stranglehold that Grover Norquist and his allies have had on the Republican Party for the past 20 years.

I’ve always thought that every American ought to have access to decent, affordable health care as a matter of national citizenship. It’s a disgrace that it’s taken us so long to make that happen. As the final pieces of Obamacare are implemented in the next 2 to 4 years, the president can leave a lasting legacy that he can justly be proud of.

Finally, the United States should be doing everything it can to strengthen and build the credibility of international peacekeeping institutions. I see no good reason why the American military should maintain 837 bases in 150 countries as we currently do. We’re still building F-35 fighters, anti-ballistic missiles, and Navy supercarriers costing tens and hundreds of billions of dollars when we know they’re of no real use against terrorist networks like al-Qaeda. We have a swollen, bloated military budget left over from the Cold War era, and its spending priorities bear little connection to today’s threats to our national security.

Related:

  • WATCH video of these lectures — plus a Q & A with Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis (along with Newton Mayor Setti Warren and State Rep. Jay Kaufman) — here.

Tags: #advice2012, Barack Obama, Election 2012, Security

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  • http://profiles.google.com/barry.kort Barry Kort

    Solving Systemic Problems

    My professional work has largely been grounded in the application of systems theory, to analyze and solve problems calling for a systems approach.

    Now that I’m mostly retired, I’ve increasingly begun to focus on the larger class of problems that plague humankind, above and beyond the more tractable class of problems that a person of my educational background in the STEM disciplines might have been recruited to work on at research venues like Bell Labs, BBN, Stanford, or MIT.

    About eight years ago, I began to chronicle my thoughts about the ten biggest and most intractable problems, observing that, from a systems theoretic point of view, all ten of them had a common underlying structure.

    As I assay it, the ten most intractable plagues of western civilization are conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, suffering, and terrorism.

    All ten of these hellish problems have something in common. Like cancer, they tend to reseed themselves, round-robin, from one instance to the next, in a never-ending cycle of recursion.

    Systemic problems call for a systems approach to problem-solving. But that’s not going to happen until we elevate our collective problem-solving skills to near-genius levels.

    I would like to see President Obama convene a national problem-solving congress, staffed with the best and the brightest systems thinkers our society has to offer, to systematically address, analyze, and solve the interlinked systemic problems of conflict, violence, oppression, injustice, corruption, poverty, ignorance, alienation, suffering, and terrorism.

    How can those of us who share and promote the systems approach elevate this idea and organize an effective community of forward-looking problem solvers?

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