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May 21st, 2009
11:50 PM ET

Gergen: 'Extreme Challenges can be opportunities'

Program Note: Tune in to hear more from David Gergen on the challenges facing President Obama tonight on an AC360° special, “Extreme Challenges: The Next 100 days.”

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David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

In our conversations for the Extreme Challenges special with Anderson Cooper, I was struck once again by both the enormity and complexity of the demands that President Obama will face in coming months. He started his presidency with the most daunting burden of any chief executive since Franklin Roosevelt, and if anything, it only seems to grow heavier.

As someone who has deep roots in presidencies of the past, I must say that I was among those who worried early on that he was taking on too much, too fast. My experience has been that a White House is able at best to handle one or two big issues, and when it suddenly has five or six balls in the air, it almost always drops one or two. Barack Obama has at least a half dozen flying above him - the economy, health care, global warming, Afpak, Iran, Iraq - the list goes on and on. So, I have been worried.

But one of the lessons I have also learned is that every fresh generation of leaders can teach a thing or two to older generations about how to get things done. And maybe, just maybe, we have a President who can do it all and do it with grace and style. (What did they say about Ginger Rogers: she showed that it was possible to dance as well as Fred Astaire and do it in heels and backwards?)

From the perspective of the current White House, one advantage is already apparent from the Obama approach. He is pressing forward on so many different fronts that it is hard for his opponents to focus their fire. One day he is going about the auto industry, the next about credit cards, the next about detainees. There are so many issues bubbling that the press can't sustain a single story line and it is hard for Republicans or even moderate Democrats to stir up much of a debate.

Take health care reform. When the Clintons proposed a major overhaul of the system, the insurers and small business folks were able to raise a heck of a ruckus within weeks after the White House put forward a proposal. Gradually public support eroded, and in a Democratic Congress, the health care reform package never even got out of committee in either the House or the Senate.

By contrast, the Obama team has so many initiatives floating and most of the bill writing has been assigned to Capitol Hill instead of the White House (where the press is mostly focused), so that a health care reform package is now winding its way through the Senate Finance Committee and will almost certainly make it out of committee and onto the floor in a matter of a few months. And there is no huge national debate! The public isn't aroused one way or the other by the big issues buried within reform because there isn't the kind of hot, mammoth debate we had in the country when the Clintons were pushing forward. As a result, it appears to me that health care reform has the best chance of passage under President Obama in more than half a century.

There is a legitimate question of whether we ought to be having a bigger debate about the bill shaping up on health care. Personally, I believe the country would be better served if we were to develop a national consensus through debate prior to passage - it is always healthier in a democracy to thrash big issues out before committing the nation to a new course of action. As a political matter, however, one has to say that the Obama approach is working better than many - including me - would have thought.

So, yes, the President does face Extreme Challenges in the coming months - challenges that are daunting by any standard - and we had an excellent series of conversations with Anderson. But it is also clear that he sees them as opportunities, and he is seizing upon them to advance his agenda.

soundoff (109 Responses)
  1. Elias

    I am writing from Kenya, though am Zambian originally. Just want to express my comment: I think Obama is on the right track so far. Let people give him more time, he can't fulfill all the promises he made in just 100 days and over. Bush's administration was a disaster and left a lot of issues to be delt with.

    I hated his approach, especially the wars he and his father have started around the globe. if they really cared as they claim about Africa, Zimbabwe would not have been in the state it is now. Sanctions do not help. The ordinarly Zimbabweans are suffering in the name of Mugabe. America is powerful. Why not uproot Mugabe like they did with Saddam, though he did no harm to bush.

    May 22, 2009 at 6:37 am |
  2. Mary

    As a Obama supporter, I have in the first hundred days totally changed my opinion of Obama. He is actually scaring me with what he says in news conferences. He spends half his talki pointing back to the previous administration, and constantly states how he inherited all the bad choices Obama is making (bailouts and stimulus) on the Bush administration. Then he says 'There are those who would like the point fingers'.............hello Obama, you just wasted half your press conference pointing fingers instread of telling us your detailed plans for the very hasty decisions you keep making. It's like the alcoholic who points to others and says "I think you have a drinking problem." I'm beginning to think we need a physcological evaluation of the president. Is he for real? Address what you're doing today in detail.....I truely don't care what Bush did.....I paid atttention to that when Bush was in office. So now realize Obama, you're president, not a victim of the Bush administration. If you didn't think you could handle the job of president, then step down, and let someone else who's not going to play the victim, lead this country. I'm very disappointed in Obama's speeches. Stop considering yourself a victim of the Bush administration and start being a leader who has a detailed plan before he acts. Sometimes I forget who is in office Bush or Obama...........as much as Obama points back at Bush. Has any President in history spent so much time blaming and playing the victim?

    May 22, 2009 at 5:43 am |
  3. Lindsay

    I understand President Obama is trying to do what he thinks is best for this country and I am behind him 110%. Our Vice President has NO say in foreign affairs anymore and he thinks that he can fix this. Just let the people who are in office now do their job please! He keeps saying all they wanted to do was protect americans and so many american lives have been saved by this, yes, they may have. We are forgetting the most important people in this- The American Soldier! What happens to them? We can't just keep sending them over there. We need to keep some troops home and a few over there just to make sure things are in order.

    May 22, 2009 at 5:38 am |
  4. michel

    hi i think obama has the right idea he has been honest since the begining and i think he knows exacly what he is doing

    May 22, 2009 at 2:30 am |
  5. Lorene Pare

    Yes Afghanistan et. al will be a challenge, but I believe it will be handled well by President Obama.

    I just have to say this though; while Anderson, you and your pundits, talk about Americans doing this and that in these countries; you never mention Canada, or our combat troops that have been in Afghanistan ever since Bush/Cheney dropped the ball!!!

    Canada is what? a country that is your northern neighbour for one, and is a country of what 35 M! and we stayed there when no other UN Country wanted to be in the thick of things!

    At least President Obama has the courtesy to talk to Canada's Prime Minister, (Stephen Harper) before he sent troops to Afghanistan.

    May 22, 2009 at 2:30 am |
  6. Stella

    He is pressing forward on so many different fronts that it is hard for his opponents to focus their fire. Love it. Where did Cheney get the idea that people like to hear what he thinks or even his opinion is
    worth anything. He should be lucky that he is not in jail as a war criminal. Somebody tell this liar to get lost.

    May 22, 2009 at 1:09 am |
  7. janette

    Cheney has been more vocal since the election than his entire
    eight years in office.He took cover in his "undisclosed' location
    instead of letting the people see him at work.Now all he did is
    criticizes at least Bush respected Pres. Obama togive him his
    silence. I say it's time Cheney show respect and shut the hell up
    his time has passed he didn't do squat while in office so just mosey
    on you sour old fart. You need to be locked away for shooting your
    "friend" in the face.Begone you sore looser get gone you crotchety
    impotent old man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 22, 2009 at 12:59 am |
  8. David Cass

    Mr Gergen has disgraced himself once again by his foolishness. Do you think Barack the Great would be so "successful" without a tingly legged press corps and a lapdog Congress. Get ready Dems, your arrogance will make your comeuppance a gleeful event. Oh by the way, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush all had their plates full. For Mr Gergen to suggest that Barack the Great is somehow busier than his predecessors belies the truth: he has less or as much as any of them. Remeber Vietnam, Cold War, 20% int rates and inflation, etc. The only difference between then and now is the tingly legged press corp and Twitter.

    May 22, 2009 at 12:58 am |
  9. Miguel

    Finally, someone is commenting on the current state of affairs with a cool head and some reason! Listen to David Gergen! He knows his stuff! President Obama has been in office barely four months; give the guy a chance! It took Bush & Cheney eight years to screw up the country. I don't agree with everything Mr. Obama does, but I am willing to give him a chance. The Obama Administration faces unprecedented challenges in this post-9/11 world. He needs our support and he's got mine. Cheney and company criticized anyone who spoke against the government as un-patriotic, but now it's okay for them to do it? Give me a break! The GOP is lost and is clutching at straws. They'll hang themselves eventually.

    May 22, 2009 at 12:54 am |
  10. George Mitchell

    patnap:

    VP Cheney is a statesman. He has years of experience. he and Bush defended this country from terrorist attacks for 8 years. The American people respect them for that, regardless what the news media would have you believe. If he sees egregious security lapses, of course he will speak up, and people will listen.

    The democrats were always weak on security. Obama owes his political life to the political left and is himself a lefty.

    But terrorists are watching very move. They will pounce at the slightest crack. And, lest we forget for one moment there will be hell to pay.

    Closing Gitmo, publicizing secret CIA memos, are terrible early missteps applauded by Al-Kaeda and all of our enemies (who no longer hate us because Bush is gone).

    May 22, 2009 at 12:46 am |
  11. Linda Duthie

    I fully trust the brains and the integrity of President Obama, as a man and being human. Smartest one we've had for quite a bit. Thank you, David Gergen for your perspective. I had recently reflected to my husband how Obama places deadlines for major projects (bills) and expects the congress to get it done. Cudos to all those on CNN, great staff! (Been watching since the last primaries.)

    May 22, 2009 at 12:28 am |
  12. Oscar

    There are so many things that are regrettable about modern day political discourse - closing Gitmo means terrorists on the street, healthcare for all means government controlled health care decisions, and so on. One of the most regrettable aspects of modern day political culture is the fiction known as the "flip-flop."

    If I were your average policy wonk, or (with all due respect to some CNN correspondents) a journalist, I might consider your about face on this issue, Mr. Gergen, to be a flip-flop. First, you said Obama was juggling too much, now you are impressed and see the need for fast-paced action on multiple fronts. That's ok with me. Why? Because a flip-flop based upon new information is not a flip-flop. It's a sound decision revised to reflect a new reality. In this case, you have come to the same conclusion that I have reached which is that there are too many pressing issues of the day to have a one-track mind in the White House. I agree.

    I for one am thankful that we have a president that is moving on so many fronts. Look at the new CAFE standards and emissions standards. Amazingly, Obama got former litigants California and Detroit on board without a lot of grandstanding by either side. So much for improved fuel economy and lower emissions ruining a national industry, I guess. And that's but one issue our president is facing today.

    We have many issues demanding attention. If President Obama wants to handle a bit more than he can chew, let him. The contrary is what we do not need: stonewalling, delay and inaction in the face of desperate need for action and reform.

    May 22, 2009 at 12:26 am |
  13. Ron from Mo.

    My completion of enduring eight arduous years with Chaney apparently has'nt ended. Seeing our constitution erode and our national character sink to unprecedented lows, I had hoped that with the election of our new president, that Mr. Chaney's dictatatorship had ended. How wrong i was as this oil man from texas now continues to try and undermine our elected president. History will eventually show the evil of this wanna be dictator as time will surely judge him. The world already has judged him.....

    May 22, 2009 at 12:24 am |
  14. Paul

    It is so time for a 'national unified single payer' health care insurance system in America.
    Notice 'insurance system', not nationalized health care, like in some European countries, but like in the Canadian province of Ontario for example.
    There Dr's and health care providers are private business persons just like here, just all the 'wasted money' going to for-proft insurance companies is instead applied to the betterment of real people's health! We all pay taxes to support and expect protection from our military equally for every one, What is different about health care? Is it just that the enemies are smaller bacteria, virus and genes attacked by toxins than compared to possible foreign invaders with guns and bombs? Is it really not the same concept of the 'people's general welfare, protection and security'? Poor health care is far more 'deadly' to the population than any foreign military EVER has been!

    If the health of it's people is not a primary concern of a countries national governemt, then what is a national government really for?

    May 22, 2009 at 12:09 am |
  15. Al Kelly

    Gee Gergen... Once again, you only partially get it... When you say, "I wish we could have a larger debate on the issue".

    You laude the ability of these people to juggle BS in huge numerous and quick succession but then at the last minute you wonder about whether or not the results will be based on a qualitative assessment or debate. Well they won't be.

    These people (Obama’s Socialist Democrats) know that a hail of BS becomes dauntingly confusing. That the debate snuffed by demagoguery and fluffery is not so nearly effective as one that just doesn't really see the light of day.

    These people are arrogant , think they know what’s best and know that the camels nose under the tent is as good as the whole camel. Along with that they believe a lousy start is best taken advantage of. Opportunists at raping the country they cannot wait for the date drug, Obamamania to wear off. Best to do the deed while the subject is still dazed and confused. Let the public realize they have been screwed when they are “pregnant” with the responsibility of the Obama cult rape- child… embedded socialism.

    In any case, it is typical Gergenisms to gush about the quality of political slight of hand and at the same time not understand that a wrong and unpatriotic load of ubiquitous socialistic slop we are going to have our national system injected with…

    May 22, 2009 at 12:02 am |
  16. iysohl

    The way Mr. Cheney behaves these days deserve the lesson of torture for himself. He seem to be disinterested for the promotion of dignity of US but very much engaged in personal pointless arrogance But he is sure more educated than Rush Limbaugh though.
    iy

    May 22, 2009 at 12:00 am |
  17. Anna W.

    Dear Mr. Gergen,

    As a keen Canadian observer of US politics, I was heartened by your assessment of Pres. Obama's performance during the initial months of his new administration.

    I have personally never been quite so impressed by a US President, nor have I ever been quite so willing to accede to America's leadership in the world stage.

    Amid the many crises and sweeping reforms on Pres. Obama's plate, I believe one of his biggest and most intractable challenges is the exceedingly poor quality of the public discourse at home, as framed by a venal, partisan and ultimately compromised media and political establishment. In that respect, you are a much welcome antidote.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:57 pm |
  18. Don M

    There is no one bad mouthing the health care plan because it isn't out yet. Debate, great, but there is nothing to debate until we see what his health care plan is. To Patnap, "They do not hate us now". You gotta be kidding me. Some of our troops were killed over there today and how about those three that got caught trying to bomb the jews in NYC and wanted to shoot down one of our fighter planes.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  19. Mike

    I agree that having an intelligent debate about issues like health care should bring about better solutions but it seems like the days of intelligent debate are over. Special interest groups flood the debate with so much misinformation that irrational and illogical choices win out or fear is instilled so things remain the same.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  20. billie jo peters

    why can't more people think like david gergen?very smart man i think he would make a great supreme court judge!he has common sense,political knowledge on both sides,and knows our very complex and hard to understand law of goverment.CNN please put david's name out there.thank you jojo

    May 21, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  21. Stephen

    Obama has his hands full, but I'm somewhat pleasantly surprised he has managed to maintain an even keel. He deserves kudos whether you are democrat or republican.

    On the other hand, I believe that the fight against al queda provides enough smoke to obscure the fact that Cheney exhibits a high degree of paranoia. The problem is I can't decide what the exact cause of his paranoia is. Is he really afraid of al queda? (if so why the neglect in Afghanistan?) or, is he afraid of being exposed as the treasonous bastard he really is.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:51 pm |
  22. Daniel D. Immediato

    Great perspective Mr Gergen ,i to have seen my share of events and challenges presidents have faced in my years .And to say our president today has few to deal with is far from the truth.His plate is adding up so quickly that it is hard to imagine anyone in his position enjoying a restful nights sleep.But i must say the the change that is taking place in the white house and our policies abroad are like night and day from the last administration.And i am not sure if that is such a good idea with one standing out to me is our security and national issues.only time will tell and i hope and prey we are doing the right decisions for our safety and for our men and women that serve this great nation we live in today. God Bless The USA

    Daniel D. Immediato

    May 21, 2009 at 11:50 pm |
  23. Donald Cox

    Perhaps the reason that Obama can move on so many fronts at once is that his thinking appears to be one mile wide and one inch deep.

    If all goes as is planned, America will be less safe, health care will be rationed, we will continue to have one of the poorest K-12 systems among industrialized nations, and wind and solar energy will go nowhere.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:49 pm |
  24. Rev. Lo

    Hello CNN,
    Go home Dick Cheney and join the church choir. There you will be free to sing old country songs like, "Yesterday's wine." Go home and grow up! Grow up America! Grow up! And fess up while we are at it. Let;s just confess here and now that we've moved into a different day. The last show is over. Somebody clean up the stage, turn out the light on the old show and make way for the carpenters of a new age. This gang has written a whole new drama. There are different actors and this baby has a whole new plot. Now that we've hired a new Director named Barack Obama and new characters from China and Iran and too many other places to name them all, its a whole new show Baby. Starting times, programs, advertisement and cost are going to be different. Lorraine Hansberry once wrote that "Man will do what the Ape never will. Man will impose on life a new meaning for life." Grow up America! It's a whole new show. Popcorn anyone?

    May 21, 2009 at 11:43 pm |
  25. Mike

    What makes Cheney and expert on Security? Why isn't Bush speaking out, because he also detests Cheney lying to him about Iraq.

    I detest Cheney, here is a guy that had five deferments during the Vietnam War while we were being drafted. Here is a guy that can't shoot straight and nearly killed a fellow hunter. There is a lot to be said about his character. Here is a guy that promoted war so his Haliburton stocks would go up and make him very rich and it did.

    Who was our VP on 9/11 ? Mr. Cheney you failed us and you have no credibility and no intestinal fortitude. Go back to Nebraska and pick corn and write a book about phoney life.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:25 pm |
  26. Matt

    Leadership matters. President Obama has accomplished more in his first weeks than Bush & Cheney bungled through in eight years. Pathetically, as they exited in disgrace, Bush & Cheney attempted to cast their legacy with the phrase" whether you agreed with us not, you have to agree that we made the tough decisions." How sad.
    The "deferred maintenance" in America has almost brought this great country to its knees.
    And more appropriately, the question isn't "did we make tough decisions" the question is, "did we make the right decisions?" Here is a partial list of dreadful decisions that will haunt us for years–and in some cases–generations to come: Environment, (includes dozens or disastrous decisions like, Kyoto, water rights and standards, emission standards...) health care, Katrina (this includes decimating FEMA with political hacks like Brown), Iraq, Afganistan (cherry-picking intelligence to support predetermined war), firing federal attorneys (includes long-term damage to the DOJ) , stem cells, torture... I never imagined Bush would be this bad. But when I look at his eight year record, I'm reminded of one of Bush's favorite phrases..."they hate our way of life."

    May 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm |
  27. Herk, WV

    Yep! We got a busy man and he is getting things done. A real politician who knows how to beat the old Whigs. Go Obama.

    May 21, 2009 at 11:09 pm |
  28. Brian

    Ever get your vehicle caught in the mud? It can do 60 MPH without going anywhere. This is about the same 'forward movement' we're seeing from the Obama administration. There's a lot of dashboard activity, the wheels are turning and the gas is burning, but in the end nothing of any consequence is getting done.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  29. gregg

    No offense to dr. gupta but why should we here from him about Pres. Obama's challenges? Last time I heard the President was in good health..........

    May 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  30. Mike

    You are right. The last thing the president needs at this time is "torture" from Cheney who seems so out of touch with the humanity and cares very little for economy.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm |
  31. Pat Kelly

    Correction. The story about an empty, state-of-the-art facility in Montana willing to take the terrorists over sex-offenders I saw on cable.
    The commentator offered the idea, since they have to be tried in federal courts. We agree. We're saying since it's empty, it should be a consideration.
    Also, the former VP has the right to express his views, (no matter how crazy, or inaccurate),but he's abusive. Cheney's fear/hate speech right after the president is unprecedented, and in my view, disrespectful.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  32. Cherri in Missouri

    Why Am I not surprised by what Cheney says. He is still trying to sell his fear administration. Well Dick it is time to quietly go away to wherever it is that someone respects you. Just where that is I am not sure. But Please go away. I am not only embarrassed but infuriated that the US was not only torturing people but that they changed the laws to say it was ok. The US is so much better and above this.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  33. Don Trotter

    Gergen is a political hack. He has been on more sides than Spector. So his admiration of a "community organizer" is suspect. What is lacking here is a "leader" in the Whire House. Go to Notre Dame and miss the point, they are killing 3600 babies each day because their mothers do not want to have a pregancy interrupt their lives.

    America was attacked, in a diabolical way, over 3000 killed, and up till then had not "waterboarded" anyone. The prime objective of government is the protection of its citizens. Clinton did not "prevent" 9/11 during his eight years of cutting the military and the intellegence community. In fact his lack of understanding of the threat posed may have elevated the risk and contributed to scope of the attack.

    My problem with Bush/Chaney was that they did not know how to fight a war, unit the final surge. "Speak softly and carry a big stick". The problem today is that the there is no respect for the "stick". And the current administration will not get the other side to respect the "stick" by talking them to death.

    Finally as to the "activity" shown by the administration, just remember, "It is better to do a few things well, than many things half as–ed"

    Just calmly look realistically at the "stimulus package" How far we have come from those "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country"

    A few years from now the pundits will be saying, "What did they do to our country?"

    May 21, 2009 at 10:39 pm |
  34. AIB

    It is time for VP Dick Cheney to shut up and go away. The World has turned the page. America's moral standing has been restored. No more naive and stupid justification of torture. This guy is a bleeding ideologue and onely one.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:37 pm |
  35. Don in Calif

    "He" isn't doing anything, except to continue the campaign and issue executive orders. He cedes the details to congress and to compare their legislation to sausage-making is an insult to sausage. All of us care deeply about health care reform and health care by the govt. is not reform. Prostate mortality in England or Canada is double the U.S., regardless of insurance issues here. Breast cancer mortality is 150% of ours in those same govt run systems. We have a president who thinks the country is broken and is trying to reshape our very model of governance while there is still single political party ownership of life, the universe and everything. What someone who has as narrow an adult life experience as he has doesn't understand is the government causes most of the really large problems, this latest crisis being no exception. Milton Friedman where are you? For that matter, how about Eisenhower?

    May 21, 2009 at 10:34 pm |
  36. normajean

    WHY ARE THERE STILL PEOPLE SAYING THAT OBAMA IS BACK TRACKING ON HIS PROMISES WHEN HE' ONLY BEEN IN THE WHITE HOUSE FOR LESS THAN FOUR MONTHS? Get a life people.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm |
  37. normajean

    I don't remember ever{and I've been around a long time} has the ex vice president ripped away at a newly elected president {three months plus| with such a fanatical display of running scared. Mr. Cheney realizes that his place in history is aimed at the dumper and he's fighting to save it. When he talks watch his face, look at his eyes. He looks scared in his own little world of frustration. As to the subject matter at this time, the prisoner thing, that is just one more of the many,many things the new administration will ultimatly come to a conclusion on and they will handle it . Mr. Cheney, just move on and let them deal with it.You are yesterday..

    May 21, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  38. Drew The Independent

    Hey Cindy from GA,

    Ya'll hate much? *boggle*

    Thank you Mr. Gergen for putting the challenges & issues that the current administration and Americans have to deal with, especially when another conservative blowhard has nothing constructive but more fear-mongering.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  39. azad, new york

    the analysis, as things appear today, seems really pragmatic. the crises created by cheny and his gang is undoubtedly a great opportunity for obama administration to fix. cheny boasts of his socalled success claiming that no attack took place after 9/11. but he did not tell that he and his disciple bush failed to thawrt 9/11 inspite of the fact that intelligence warned about it well ahead, and bush cheny instead kept themselves busy to recruit friendly contractors whom to offer big contracts without competition.
    it is good that cheny has surfaced himself to take up the republican leadership along with rush.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  40. Walt

    Ya, BO has done well. So far, he's apologized to the world, embraced an American hater, confused everyone on GTMO, crammed through a spending bill that was weak on stimulus and long on wasted spending, crammed through a budget that is full of waste, broke bankruptcy laws with his gift to the unions of Chrysler, and about ready to do the same with GM. Ya, he's something. Can't wait to see the "reform" of health care. A system that has been in place forever will be "reformed" in a few months. Typical liberal, media garbage – all flash, no substance.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  41. martin in nj

    What he is doing is giving the congress directives and projects to work on, which is what a good executive does. He's letting the lawmakers craft the laws for a change instead of dropping thousands of pages in their collective lap and tell them to sign it or else.

    I think that once the committees have enough of a concept to present to the president and the people the serious debate will begin. I also think that the final legislation will not be exactly what's presented at first. There are negotiations and debates to be had, the voices of the general public to be heard and finally compromises made on both sides of each issue. With all the things that are being developed it's not surprising that there isn't enough to have an intelligent debate about yet.

    During the campaign, President Obama's promise to the people was that he would work with congress to achieve certain goals. Then he laid out those goals. Anyone who thinks he was talking in absolutes wasn't paying enough attention and probably did not have enough managerial experience to know how things work in an organization the size of the U.S. government.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  42. Pat Kelly

    President Obama does have extreme challenges, and folks need to remember he inherited Bush and Cheney's mess. He's talking about 250 detainees could be sent to the empty prison in Montana.
    Why sour grapes? Cheney, Limbaugh, Insanity Hannity, and all the rest are acting as if our president wants "terrorists" to move next door, and mow the lawn? Has Sirhan Sirhan escaped? Timothy McVeigh? Charles Manson?

    Dick Cheney and his crew freed over 500 prisoners from Gismo (and 14% went back to Al Quada), PRIOR to President Obama taking office.
    Two-thirds of the detainees released by BUSH before Barrack Obama became president. Where are they now? What do you think they are doing?

    Where is the logic in Cheney opening his mouth against the current president? Or does he really think he's CHA? (Covering his...)

    Dick Cheney is a private citizen who is talking himself right into federal prison. He's not the president, and is doing the nation a disservice with his fear mongering. He's hypocritical, dishonest, and I wish the media would ignore his bias ratings, as well as, Limbaugh.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  43. Lynn

    I think President Obama is doing a terrific job. He is taking on a lot, but I think it is necessary that he do so as they are all connected – the wars, the economy, health care, energy – each is affected by the other. I really wish Cheney would go away and stop with the fear mongering. The Obama Administration has so much on their plate, they really don't need this negative distraction.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  44. Carolyn H

    Yes, Obama has a lot on his plate, but why? We know he inherited these messes. Where would we be if he could only handle one or two major issues at a time? He has no choice but to handle them.

    I am not worried because I believe he is surrounded by competent people. They do the research, bring it to him, he reviews it and consults with his advisors. Isn't that the way it should be done? Yes, the buck stops with him, his pragmatism comes with great thoughtfulness.

    For those who say he has not addressed or done enough on certain issues...give me a break! Give him a chance. He can't get to everything within even 200 days!

    As for Dick Cheney, he needs to 'just go away' as Meghan McCain suggested of the older generation Republicans. I find it ironic that Cheney can't keep his mouth shut now but when he was in office he was so very quiet. Sounds to me like he is trying to justify his and W's breaking the law....I repeat...breaking the law!

    Carolyn – GA

    May 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  45. Chuck

    More so now than ever large segments within the United States want to bring our own leadership down. When Bush was in office, a large segment wanted him stopped because he was so obviously damaging our credibility, our economy, our security and our public health. I was one of those who thought "compassionate conservative" sounded good until it showed itself as only a campaign slogan.

    Now the other side wants to bring Obama down out of spite. We have a man in charge who is attacking all of our problems with reason, thoughtfulness and true compassion. But instead of being grateful for a president who is truely sacrificing for our welfare, selfish conservatives would rather he fail than concede authority.

    Add that ball to the juggling mix.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  46. James

    There is an old saying in bird hunting if you throw up enough lead eventually you will hit something. I disagree with you Mr. Gergen. The most inexperienced President of this century and the previous one dealing in the worst financial period this country has faced. He is destroying the value of the greenback and soon the credit standing of the US. Introducing the worst legislation possibe in the time of a recession. Deficit spending, Cap & Trade, Healthcare, higher taxes on those that already pay the most. Please put down your glass of kool-aid and rose shaded glasses.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  47. Sam Lee - Washington DC

    There's a reason to all of this:

    Healthcare reform – there is practically a universal consensus that there needs to be reform one way or another, a consensus that was lacking during Clinton years.

    Also like it or not, a bad and faltering economy gives more public support to healthcare reform, when unemployment rate is high, more people are worried about losing health care. So yes, now is the best time to pass healthcare reform in decades, if not ever.

    If Republician really wants to block Healthcare reform (I don't see why they would want to, it's a pro-small business initiative, and helps American business compete on a more equal playing field compare to foreign competitors who don't have to be burdened with providing employee health.) their best strategy is to try to drag this out until the economy recovers. Like any good Americans, we'll all begin to think more about how to make more money instead of worrying about a safety net.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:05 pm |
  48. Raymond Haymes

    President Obama definitely has a full plate of problems. He has shown to be both willing and able to tackle them and to do so in a way that is consistent with his campaign promises. He does reach out to the opposition, but he also works to bring about the needed changes he promised over their objections. I applaud him and think we are lucky to have this man to lead us when so much is at stake. May God guide him and keep him safe.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  49. Carlston

    So Brian your saying, all the complaints about every single last president that didn't live up to some magical standard is because the nation didn't support him?

    Ahh so Dem, Reps indies...there you have it. Even if you get voted you won't be supported. And good ol Obama will lose all this in a year....and be just another president people aren't happy with.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm |
  50. Mary Pierson

    Why should we only be able to handle 1 or 2 large issues at a time. That is old school thinking. If the Congress could get their act together, and agree to get things done, anything is possible. I believe in Barrack Obama, the first politician I ever campaigned for, in my 58 years.

    May 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm |
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