Late one foggy, drizzly evening, an alpha male motorist became hopelessly lost in the crisscross maze of streets in the nation’s capital. Perilously low on gas, he pulled into a filling station. Bemoaning the inflated cost of fuel, he filled the tank with the cheapest grade. He decided to buy a new set of windshield wipers to help him see a few feet in front of the car, added a little air to one tire that seemed low, and ran the vehicle through the car wash to remove some unsightly splatter. Then, on impulse, he added some snack food and a diet soft drink to his credit card tab before driving off. He neglected to buy a road map or even ask directions.
The result of this pitiful pit stop is predictable. After many more hours of aimless driving, the same motorist will return to this or another gas station to refill the tank and his empty stomach. He is wasting time and money, going nowhere.
Like that hapless motorist, official Washington seems lost, spending precious time and money to go nowhere fast. The nation looks a little better and may even feel a little better, but no one has a clear sense of direction or purpose. This is the predictable result of an administration, a Congress and an opposition that seem united on just one thing: There shall be no agreed way out of the mess we’ve made of our economy and, increasingly, of our society.
The President has an agenda, a list of things to do, rather than a strategy. As Fareed Zakaria wrote recently, “Prime Minister” Obama seems content to manage the government when he should be leading the country. The House and Senate are working at odds with one another, helping to account for their shared de minimis approval rating. The Republican opposition seems content to just say no.
What we all lack is a clear sense of strategy: a few big steps that will set us off in a new direction. It could be as simple as: let’s change public policy in every way necessary to ensure that Americans can invest more, produce more, import less, and export more. That would pay big dividends: reduced debt; lower interest rates; and more jobs. Over time, the even larger pay-off would be renewed confidence that the American Dream will survive for future generations, restoration of the value of the dollar, and renewed credibility and influence for the United States in the world.
Focus on fundamentals. Aim high. Stay focused. That’s the kind of leadership we need, and we need it now.