Share blame, don’t worry about credit

Published 12:40 pm Monday, August 15, 2011

I suppose there is nothing you or I can do as individuals to solve the current economic crisis, which is both national and global. If the president and congress can do anything, we can’t be sure of other than that they have not. What we can do — and what we must accomplish — is to change the president and Congress. If we can encourage or goad the incumbents into changing from partisan politics to problem solving, wonderful. If they won’t change, we need to change who is in the offices.

They — all of them — have demonstrated daily for months what is either an inability or an unwillingness to address the economic crisis with any degree of adequacy. If it is not within their knowledge and wisdom to fashion a solution, they are obliged to find those with the solution and to enact the solution into laws and regulations.

However, I have a strong suspicion the problem is less ability than willingness. By willingness, I of course do not mean no one wants a solution. They all do. But they seem obsessed on who gets the political credit for a solution. Either the Democrats or the Republicans might conceivably already know the solution. But it would accomplish nothing for either side to propose it, because the other side is certain to defeat it even if the opponents know it is the solution. The nonnegotiable requirement of both parties seems to be they get the political credit.

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If any solution ever comes through Congress, it would need to be bi-partisan. The problem with this, in the minds of current Congress members on both sides of the aisle, is both sides might get equal credit—and this is so far considered unacceptable.

We look to the president of the United States to exercise leadership of the full congress, a Congress of both parties, to hammer out a solution regardless of who gets the credit.

One of the many excellent reasons for a separation of governmental powers is so the executive branch can exercise leadership over a divided Congress. This just has not happened with the current administration. Nor are there any signs that it is going to happen.

It is one thing for a Democrat senator to yield to the Democrat majority leader for the sake of party unity. Or for a Republican congressman to vote as instructed by the majority leader. It is another thing, however, for a Democrat president to be a gang-leader of congressional Democrats against the Republicans when a president is elected to be the leader of the nation. President Barack Obama is a Democrat and gained office by Democrat support and promotion. We can’t expect him to act as a Republican or support the Republican platform.

But we can — and do — require him to act as president of the United States, the president of all the people. This has not yet happened, and the people are beginning to catch on.

Again, I fault neither the president alone nor the Democrats alone nor the Republicans alone. If fault should lie more heavily on one over the others (a possibility I doubt), it would be such a slight difference nothing is gained by holding any one group or party guilty. There is plenty of guilt to go around.

It was not a wise man, but a wise woman who said it: “There is no end to what you can accomplish if (or when) you don’t care who gets the credit.” She was architect Florence Luscomb (1883-1985), one of the first female graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a women suffrage activist. Luscomb, I suspect, would have been satisfied if I had not credited this aphorism to her as long as it is picked up by both Republicans and Democrats in congress. All the better if the president would as well.

This will happen when Congress and the president — Democrats and Republicans alike — become more concerned with solving the economic crisis than they are in getting credit for a solution. Ironically, when they share the blame and care not who gets the credit, they all will. If these will not succeed, we must succeed in finding replacements who will.