- by Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis
The Oval Office of the White House in Washington pictured Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
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 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.”
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
- 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.
A special series by Cognoscenti and the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs at Northeastern University.
- 10/2/12 Larry Summers and Greg Mankiw: Taxes And Spending
- 10/2/12 Thomas Kochan and John Kwoka: Economic Recovery
- 10/10/12 Barry Bluestone and Katharine Bradbury: Income Inequality And Social Mobility
- 10/17/12 Graham Allison and Juliette Kayyem: National And Homeland Security
- 10/24/12 Nicholas Burns and Stephen Kinzer: Foreign Policy
- 10/31/12 Michael Dukakis and Wendy Parmet: The Future Of ‘Obamacare’
- 11/8/12 David Seltz, James Roosevelt, Regina Herzlinger and Stephen D’Amato: Health Care Cost Containment
- 11/21/12 Edward Powell, Jon Feinman and Edward Davis: Gun Violence In Cities
- 12/5/12 Paul Toner, Jim Stergios and Tassy Warren: K-12 Education And Early Childhood Development
- 12/12/12 Eva Millona, Jeff Jacoby and Robert Hedlund: Immigration Reform
- 12/19/12 Deval Patrick and Michael Dukakis: Leveraging The Power Of The Oval Office
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The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the writer and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.