Open thread on playing it safe or being bold

Over Thanksgiving my family (all Barack Obama voters in the general) were talking about what we’d like to see him do as president. One of my biggest concerns about Obama has always been that he would compromise too much in the name of bipartisanship and not seize the opportunity to get groundbreaking legislation through Congress. I’ve also worried that he would water down good policies that threaten to significantly bring down his approval rating.

From my perspective, Bill Clinton’s presidency was not very successful for a lot of reasons. Some of them were his fault: he put the wrong people in charge of certain jobs, and he picked the wrong battles and listened too much to Wall Street advisers when it came to policy.

Some things were not Clinton’s fault: the Democrats who ran Congress in 1993 and 1994 were not always interested in working with him, and the leaders of the Republican-controlled Congress were more interested in destroying his presidency than anything else.

After getting burned in the 1994 elections, Clinton hired Dick Morris as a political adviser and moved to the right in order to get re-elected. He served a full two terms, but he didn’t leave a mark on this country. His greatest achievement, balancing the budget, was undone quickly by his successor. Many smaller successes on environmental and social policies were also reversed by George Bush’s administration.

Clinton approved a bunch of good presidential directives, especially on the environment, during his last 60 days in office. Doing them years earlier would not only have been good policy, it also would have prevented Ralph Nader from gaining so much traction in 2000.

Clinton left some very big problems unaddressed, like global warming and our reliance on foreign oil, because the obvious solutions to these problems would have been unpopular.

Compare Clinton’s legacy to that of Lyndon Johnson. Although Johnson made terrible mistakes in Vietnam (continuing and compounding mistakes made by John F. Kennedy), he enacted a domestic agenda that changed this country forever. Some of Johnson’s achievements were popular (Medicare), while others cost the Democrats politically in many states (the Civil Rights Act). But Johnson did not shy away from big change on civil rights because of the political cost.

I understand that no president will ever do everything I’d like to see done. I’d be satisfied if Obama enacted a groundbreaking, lasting improvement in one or two big areas, like health care or global warming. The right policies often have powerful enemies. I would rather see Obama get good laws passed to address a couple of big problems, even if doing so costs him the 2012 election.

My fear is that in Obama will end up like Bill Clinton–a two-term president who didn’t achieve anything that will continue to affect Americans’ lives four or five decades down the road.

If Obama only goes to the mat to accomplish one or two big things, what should they be? Keeping his promise to end the war in Iraq? Getting universal health care through Congress? Taking real steps to address climate change? Enacting a huge public-works program to deal with unemployment? Building high-speed rail connecting major American cities?

Would you be satisfied with progress in one or two areas, even if it meant that Obama was not re-elected in 2012?

After the jump I’ve posted a “meme” on being bold in your personal life, which is going around some of the “mommy blogs.” Some of the questions have more to do with luck or having money than with taking risks or being bold, though.

1. Started your own blog – No. Drew Miller started this blog and invited me to write on the front page a few months later.

2. Slept under the stars – no, only in a tent

4. Visited Hawaii -no

5. Watched a meteor shower – yes

6. Given more than you can afford to charity – no

7. Been to Disneyland/world – yes

8. Climbed a mountain – no

9. Held a praying mantis – no

10. Sang a solo-yes

11. Bungee jumped- no

12. Visited Paris – yes

13. Watched a lightning storm – yes

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch – not unless you count juggling

15. Adopted a child- no

16. Had food poisoning- yes

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty- yes

18. Grown your own vegetables -only a few tomatoes

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France – yes

20. Slept on an overnight train – yes

21. Had a pillow fight – yes

22. Hitch hiked – no

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill – no

25. Held a lamb- no

26. Gone skinny dipping – yes

27. Run a Marathon – no

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice – no

29. Seen a total eclipse Solar and lunar – no, just partial

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset – yes.

31. Hit a home run – no

32. Been on a cruise – Only a three-day sailing trip on Lake Superior

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person – yes

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors – no, but I have visited the homes both my parents grew up in

35. Seen an Amish community -yes

36. Taught yourself a new language – no

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied – yes

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person – no

39. Gone rock climbing- no

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David – yes

41. Sung karaoke – no

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt – yes

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant. no, but I have bought restaurant soup and brought it outside to a homeless person

44. Visited Africa- yes

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight – yes

46. Been transported in an ambulance – yes

47. Had your portrait painted. no. drawn, yes.

48. Gone deep sea fishing- no

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person – yes

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris- no

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling – only snorkeling.

52. Kissed in the rain- yes

53. Played in the mud- yes

54. Gone to a drive-in theater- no

55. Been in a movie- no

56. Visited the Great Wall of China – No

57. Started a business – no

58. Taken a martial arts class- no

59. Visited Russia – yes

60. Served at a soup kitchen- yes

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies – no, but I sold Campfire Girls candy

62. Gone whale watching – no

63. Gotten flowers for no reason – yes

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma- yes

65. Gone sky diving – no

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp – no, but I have visited a former Soviet prison camp

67. Bounced a check – yes

68. Flown in a helicopter – yes

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy- yes

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial- yes

71. Eaten Caviar- yes

72. Pieced a quilt- no

73. Stood in Times Square – yes

74. Toured the Everglades – no

75. Been fired from a job. yes, I lost a job when my whole department was liquidated

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London – yes

77. Broken a bone – yes, but just a little toe

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle – no

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person – yes

80. Published a book – yes, as a co-author

81. Visited the Vatican – yes

82. Bought a brand new car – yes

83. Walked in Jerusalem – yes

84. Had your picture in the newspaper – yes

85. Read the entire Bible. – no

86. Visited the White House – yes

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – no

88. Had chickenpox- yes

89. Saved someone’s life – not that I know of. However, I inspired a friend to start wearing seat belts about ten years ago, which potentially could save his life. I also have encouraged certain people to get regular checkups such as mammograms, which could one day save their lives.

90. Sat on a jury – no, I lived overseas when I got called

91. Met someone famous- yes

92. Joined a book club – no

93. Lost a loved one – yes

94. Had a baby – yes

95. Seen the Alamo in person – no

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake – no, but I have swum in the Dead Sea

97. Been involved in a law suit- no

98. Owned a cell phone – Yes

99. Been stung by a bee- yes

100. Voted – obviously.

About the Author(s)


  • What is this?

    My grand daughter has facebook and they do these little survey list deals all the time.

    I don’t understand what the point of them is.