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Robert Goodwin

Robert Goodwin

Robert J. Goodwin is CEO and co-founder of Executives Without Borders; former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force and appointee at USAID, the State Department and the White House.

Health Care Summit

The main lessons learned from this affair are the challenges of governing, the weight the president's words carry and ways to bring about positive reconciliation.

One of the most difficult challenges for any president is to figure out the best approach to an issue based on limited, and often imperfect information. This is further complicated by a rapid news cycle that demands a quick response. When you don't respond quickly, the issues are defined, and you fight an uphill battle to redefine them on your terms.

Because initial information is often incorrect, you have to know when to wait and when to react decisively. What appeared to be an off-the-cuff remark by President Obama was actually a spark that started a fire, as he appeared to choose sides.

Choosing sides on policy is necessary for a president. But choosing sides in such personal matters is sure to be divisive. President Obama's remarks quickly led to a media frenzy and escalated the conflict. A flurry of information followed, which led to the creation of caricatures of Professor Gates, Officer Crowley and the 911 caller. This also detracted from the important health care debate. None of which the president wanted.

So the president, realizing his mistake, brought them together to show that everyone is human, and it is possible in this country to get past some of our racial issues. In this case, he started the process with two men over a beer.

It used to be that members of the House and Senate would battle all day and then regularly get together afterward to share a meal and have some drinks. Many also regularly prayed together. Those days are gone, but they are needed today more than ever.

I hope the president can find a way to bring Democrats and Republicans together, as he did in this situation, on issues like health reform. Our problems are too great and our financial challenges are mounting. If he can bring leaders together on both sides, I think all Americans would be happy to buy the first round.

By Robert Goodwin

 |  August 5, 2009; 12:32 PM ET
Category:  Making mistakes Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Few would buy a first round if increased taxes are involved, and that's a pity. With taxes we buy civilization. I wish someone would tell Americans the hard truth for once, that if some things are worth fighting and dying for, some things are also worth paying for--like publicly-supported, universal health care. We sponsor war with hardly a whimper, yet won't take care of our own here at home. Where are our priorities?

Posted by: conn7354 | August 6, 2009 9:04 AM
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