Capitol Idea: Obama Needs to Get Gutsy at Home

White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan called President Obama “gutsy” for his decision to order the strike that ended with Osama bin Laden becoming a corpse. The daring mission to get bin Laden led Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne to praise Obama as “bold.”.

It’s great, of course, to see the president act so decisively in the national interest. It would be helpful, though, if the president wouldn’t restrict his gutsiness to signing off on commando raids in Pakistan.

The middle class here in the United States has been struggling for years, and we, too, would benefit from some bold action. To be sure, Obama isn’t commander in chief of the U.S. economy in the same way that he is for the U.S. military. And he can’t order SEAL Team 6 to force the cooperation of Republican lawmakers in Congress the way that he could order them to dispatch the world’s worst terrorist. But it is true that, as president, Obama carries a great deal of authority over a range of issues; if only he would use it.

John Podesta, White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, pointed this out last fall, when Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives. At the time, Podesta noted that both of Obama’s immediate predecessors in the Oval Office, Democrat Clinton and Republican George W. Bush, each used their executive powers to advance agendas over the heads of congressional opponents.

“President Obama’s ability to govern the country as chief executive presents an opportunity to demonstrate strength, resolve, and a capacity to get things done on a host of pressing challenges of importance to the public and our economy. Progress, not positioning, is what the public wants and deserves,” says Podesta, who today heads the left-leaning think tank, the Center for American Progress.

Unfortunately, while Obama has clearly been bold overseas, he has not really heeded Podesta’s advice here at home. Gas prices that have climbed to $4 a gallon and could go higher are but the latest bludgeon the American middle class has had to endure. But it’s also one problem Obama could help solve as quickly and decisively as he did in ordering the hit on Osama bin Laden. Indeed, these high fuel prices threaten the overall U.S. economic recovery.

Yet, Obama could order an immediate draw-down of crude oil in the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve — which would nearly instantly flood the market with new supplies. Grateful consumers would start to see lower prices at the pump pretty quickly. Democrats have been pushing the president to do just this for weeks now, noting that both Clinton and Bush each tapped the reserves during their presidencies, to good effect. Yet Obama has resisted pulling that trigger. Instead, he’s ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to form a task force to root out fraud in the oil markets.

That’s all well and good, but task forces don’t bring struggling consumers the immediate relief they crave — and deserve. After all, the president didn’t just convene another task force to investigate bin Laden. He signed an order, made it happen, and solved the problem. The nation, and the world, are grateful for his bold move to rid us of bin Laden.

We consumers, read voters, would be just as grateful to finally see at least one quick fix to help us here at home, too.

Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade. Capitol Idea is his regular column from Washington. This article first published as Obama Needs to Get Gutsy at Home on Blogcritics.

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