In His Final Year, the President Has a Clear Choice

I couldn't help but reflect on the first speech he gave to a Joint Session of Congress back in 2009, shortly after his inauguration. It was a hopeful speech.

But somewhere along the way, he seems to have forgotten the benefit of finding common ground where folks can agree. It seems we've seen the Obama Administration more involved in dividing the American people when facing opposition, and then preferring to go it alone rather than to work with Congress.

In his final address on his priorities as President, President Obama wanted to talk about what his legacy will look like once he leaves office, and that will invariably include times when he had simply done an end run around Congress. We've seen it time and time again, and it's a mistake. It's shortsighted.

Since President Obama took office, his party has lost 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats, 910 state legislative seats, and lost majority party status in 30 state legislatures.

You've seen an economy struggling to recover with stagnant wages and slow economic growth. And…we've got a mess in Syria, and no real strategy to fight ISIL.

He still has one full year in his two terms, his eight years in office. He has a choice to make: the President can decide to double down on his go-it-alone strategy, which has proved to be a disaster. It doesn't work. It's not enduring, and it polarizes the political parties and the American people.

But the President could decide to try to work with Congress. And I'll suggest an area where we can find common ground and work together, and that's reforming our criminal justice system.

We do have legislation that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. There are some things that we still need to continue to work with our colleagues on, but I think it represents a great opportunity, something that the President himself has said that he wants to see us do.

I also believe that addressing our broken mental health system is another area that we could deal with productively on a bipartisan basis that could be a legacy of this President, and certainly of this Congress.

So those are just a couple of ideas about what this President could do, and I hope areas that he would be willing to work with us on are criminal justice reform and mental health reform. I think if he were willing to do that, he would find Republicans and Democrats alike willing to work with him to try to build that common ground and consensus. And actually, that would be one of the lasting legacies of his final year of his Administration.


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