[Ed.'s Note: The former editor of Forbes ASAP and the author of 15 books, including The Big Score and The Virtual Corporation, Mike Malone is now holed up at an undisclosed location in Oregon, where he’s supposed to be completing his next book. Observing the president of the United States over the last couple of weeks, however, Mike proved unable to contain himself. He sat down, wrote this essay, and sent it to us.]
Mr. President, please don’t get well soon.
From the opinion polls to the depressed state of the stock markets to growing contempt of our enemies (and friends) around the world to the stunning lack of new ideas for getting out of our current economic predicament to the apparent impending failure of your signature universal healthcare initiative, it has become obvious even to members of your own party that you are in over your head.
You know it too, Mr. President, if your endless golf games and vacations – not to mention your increasingly incoherent public appearances – are any indication of your state of mind.
Looking ahead, you must be dreading the next eighteen months of convention protests, daily attacks by the GOP nominee, and trying to defend a miserable economic record during the debates. It’s going to be awful, especially since the only arrow left in your quiver is to go on the attack in the dirtiest possible ways: race, class envy, and religion. You must know that even if you do manage to win, it will be a pyrrhic victory, with your image so damaged – and the economy still so crippled – that your second term will make the first look like a picnic. Even successful presidents have rotten second terms; just imagine what yours is going to be like.
So, Mr. President, I have a suggestion: resign.
I don’t mean that in a flippant, or even partisan, way. Rather, let me explain how a smart resignation, properly done, can be a ‘win’ for all parties involved – not least yourself.
First, let me establish the basis for my argument by pointing out that, whatever your hopes, the economy isn’t going to turn around and save you. The only economic ‘miracles’ are those that result from a society dedicating itself fully to certain economic realities. That isn’t going to happen under your administration. Everybody in the U.S., (well, maybe not Paul Krugman), knows what it will take to turn our economy around: low taxes, a reversal of the runaway expansion of government, the unleashing of domestic energy sources, lifting the crushing weight of too many government regulations, and establishing a predictable economic environment that allows companies large and small to make long-term plans and that supports entrepreneurship and venture capital.
Even your fellow leftists and Progressives know that this is the prescription for restoring America’s economic health. I’m pretty sure that you know it too. But there is a big difference between knowing something and being willing to do it. It is obvious that you aren’t willing to take these steps, not just because it would render your first two years in office into one giant mistake, but because it would repudiate almost everything in which you have ever believed, every hero you’ve ever had, and every dream you’ve ever pursued.
Even with what little we know about you and your past, Mr. President, it is hard to believe you would ever accept such a public about-face, much less its implied confession of utter failure. And even if you did, no one would believe you – they would assume it is a lie or trick. At this point there is simply no way that you personally can remove volatility from our economy. So, that means only one thing: it’s not going to get any better. And with Operation Gunwalker out there, as well as everything from Tony Rezko to the army of Birthers, it’s likely to get a whole lot worse, both for you and the United States of America.
Now, consider the alternative. You step down. Undefeated. The Democrat party, currently faced with the prospect of, at best, devastating losses in 2012, and at worst, a generation wandering the wilderness, now has a chance to mount a comeback. Biden isn’t going to run again, and being Old School, he’ll craft some kind of compromise deal with the GOP House that will accomplish most of what you can’t bring yourself to do. If the beginnings of a turn-around can be achieved by November 2012, the Dems might be able to salvage something to build upon – and your tenure will be remembered as only a brief, and unpleasant, interregnum.
As for the Republican party, it is going to win. As much as you hate the very idea, it will happen. Barring a historic meltdown or scandal, the next president of the United States will be a Republican. And a good thing too, because the last five years have taught us that the Democratic party, at least regarding financial discipline, has gone utterly insane -- and if left in control will destroy this great country. The Democrat party needs a serious scouring, a lot of introspection, and a major dose of reality. It started with the last election, and it is only going to get worse. Do you really want to be center stage for that?
If it is any consolation, consider the box you will leave for your successor. He (or she) will either inherit a disastrous economy that will take years to fix and without the ability to blame you as you did George W. Bush; or a limping, slowly recovering recovery that creates only widespread frustration and disappointment. Either way, a lot of folks will begin to look back upon you with nostalgia. Besides, the GOP has its own impending reckoning between its Inside-the-Beltway statists and the Tea Partiers (BTW, before you die you’ll likely recognize that the Tea Party was the best thing that could happen, even for you and your fellow progressives.)
Finally, and if for no other reason, you need to resign for the sake of Progressivism. For progressives, the last two years have been a lot like the dog that finally caught the car: victory has only shown the hollowness, even the danger, of your political philosophy. I remember years ago interviewing Molly Ivins, and listening to her rave about the glories of Wilsonian and Rooseveltian Progressivism. Her eyes glistened with the image in her mind of a better world, run by government experts, intent on perfect fairness and equality.
Today, under your leadership, Progressivism is all-but dead as a viable political philosophy. Once in power, as in the past, it quickly showed its totalitarian face – and the danger of placing our liberty in the hands of Big Government, Big Labor, Big Business, Big Anything. Five more years of this and Progressivism will be dead for another three generations. And if you don’t want to be the guy blamed in every faculty lounge in America for killing it, you need to get Progressivism out of the spotlight for a while to recover. And there’s only way to do that.
So, how do you resign without the accompanying humiliation of defeat (Carter), surrender (Johnson) or impeachment (Nixon)? You get sick. Real sick. Have-to-nobly-leave-office-for-the-sake-of-the-country sick. Remember Reagan’s goodbye letter? Even people who hated him shed a tear at the shear awesomeness of that letter. You need that moment and you need it soon if that long life you have ahead of you is going to be anything but bitter and full of recriminations.
Needless to say, pulling this off won’t be easy. The good news is that your appalling lack of candor about your past could be helpful now. There’s always been talk, especially from the tin-foil hat types, about your health records, your perpetual skinniness, that suggestion of cranial scars when you get a short haircut. Now pick one and use it to your advantage. The golf games mysteriously stop. Medical specialists are spotted rushing to the White House. You have a coughing fit during a press conference. A photo is leaked of you in the Oval Office that suggests a half-hidden IV tube. Nothing big, nothing conclusive . . .and then, the heart-rending resignation speech, the shots of people weeping on the streets of America and around the world. You announce a bipartisan transition team, then heroically depart to fight your illness as Joe Biden calls for a national day of prayer.
Does this sound impossible to pull off? Will you be exposed? Well, has anybody found your college grades yet? No, even this column would be seen as a cynical and lucky guess. And you know the media will roll for you – frankly, they’ll be relieved.
No, you need to keep your eye on the prize. Think Gorbachev: nobody remembers that he not only ran the most murderous empire in history, but then blundered so badly he inadvertently destroyed it . . .and now he is a beloved figure, rich and much in demand, and his name most associated with World Peace. Think about it: a couple years lying low, a few shadowy photographs in a bathrobe walking with a cane, a couple ‘close calls’ that provoke candlelight vigils across the land, and then a public recovery as the world cheers.
After that, it’s the Presidential Library and Peace Center in Honolulu, the UN Secretary-Generalship, awards and honors without responsibilities or blame, a forty year victory lap and mile-long lines paying respects to your remains in the Capitol. Isn’t the First Black President better than the Worst Modern President? Doesn’t a couple years off sound better than riding around in that big black coffin being yelled at by Tea Partiers? Wouldn’t you prefer some other Dem candidate – Hillary? – be slaughtered in the next presidential election?
Think about it, Mr. President, and make your decision soon. Time is short . . .and you aren’t looking real well, if you know what I mean . . .