Knowing His Limits
One of the first responsibilities of leadership is to understand the parameters of one's authority and to master the art of persuading, co-opting, or otherwise enlisting the support of those whose participation is required.
Under our system of government, it is the Congress, not the president, that is charged with the authority to decide on spending, taxing, and the creation of federal programs. Bill Clinton did not understand that; as a result, he convened an executive branch task force to create a new health care plan; eight years later, when he left the presidency, that plan was little more than a dusty curiosity for historians.
Barack Obama is seeking change of a major scale and is smart enough to understand who will ultimately decide on the success or failure of those grand visions; he is being presidential -- wisely presidential -- spelling out the grand idea and general parameters of what he would hope for and then working with the Congress as it writes the new laws. Political scientist Richard Neustadt famously described true presidential leadership in precisely the way Obama is now exercising it.
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