The Washington Post: Mark Penn answers “Topic A”: What should Obama focus on next?

July 18, 2010

The Washington Post asked political experts where the administration should focus before the midterm elections.

Adviser and pollster to President Bill Clinton and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton; CEO of Burson Marsteller

Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.

The administration should not make the energy bill principally about climate change. The truth is the economic slowdown has done more to help with climate change than any bill is likely to accomplish in the near term. America wants clean, non-imported, sustainable energy — and at the same time wants to continue to use all available natural resources here and abroad to keep energy prices down. Even after the BP spill, Americans still support offshore drilling.

There is no way an immigration bill would get done before the midterms, and though the issue tends to fracture the Republican Party, turnout in the midterms suggests that this would not be the ideal time to try to tackle that tumultuous subject.

At this point the deficit is so high that a new round of stimulus would just be putting a target on the back of the administration.

Unemployment benefits need extension. Right now there is no estate tax and won’t be unless Congress acts to do something about it. Those are both issues the administration should continue to press.

But the economy and energy are where the administration has to put its legislative bets while it seeks to minimize midterm losses so it can come back from them and keep the country moving forward.

Read Full Article