Barack Obama has a historic opportunity. I say this not because of his race. I believe that, as Martin Luther King said, a man should be judged, not by his color, but by the content of his character. Obama's opportunity is with the vast amounts of goodwill that he currently possesses.
Barack Obama has inherited the presidency during a rough time. We have entered a recession, we are fighting (and winning) two wars, and we still face the threat of radical Islam. Here is my short list of ways that Obama can be a successful, and perhaps great, president. If not, he may go down in history as a footnote.
First, keep America safe. We need to make sure that Iraq and Afghanistan continue to become stable states where the terrorists cannot regain a foothold. Even more importantly, we need to make sure that Iran will not be able to produce nuclear weapons, even if this requires military action.
To that end, we also need to enact sensible immigration reform. We cannot continue to let thousands of people simply walk across our borders. Aside from the fact that many illegals die in the desert while trying to cross, the fact is that it would be absurdly easy for terrorists to enter the country.
The second thing that Obama should do is to resist the temptation to run up a multi-trillion dollar deficit enacting New Deal style programs. FDR's New Deal turned a Hoover recession into the Great Depression (although it did lock in fifty years of Democratic rule, so on that score, he was probably happy with it). The type of programs that Bush and Paulsen have started and that Obama wants to expand also led directly to Japan's Lost Decade in the 1990s, economic upheaval and stagnation that Japan still has not fully recovered from.
Instead Obama should set aside his notions of "fairness" and reduce taxes. Our corporate tax rate is currently one of the highest in the world. If he drastically reduced corporate taxes, the capital gains tax, and eliminated the estate (death) tax, that would be real economic stimulus. Instead, in the campaign he announced plans to increase corporate and capital gains taxes, and the estate tax is set to increase in a few years automatically. If he wants to go further, implementing the FAIR Tax would ensure the US role as an economic powerhouse.
Finally, Obama should not restrict civil liberties. Many of his appointees are notoriously anti-second amendment. Restrictions on guns would not be popular with the American people and historically have not helped deter crime. Similarly, restrictions on the political content of talk radio could also backfire at the polls. The proposed Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate secret ballots in union elections and, while popular with unions, is not very popular with voters.
To be great Obama must resist the pull of the radical left and govern from the center.He must reject class warfare and use proven solutions to heal the economy. He must realize that we simply can't afford a trillion dollars of new spending. He must realize, as President Reagan said, that government is the problem, not the solution. He must realize that when dealing with radical zealots, actions speak louder than words. If he can do this, he may be a great president, as judged by history, and not just by opinion polls. If he can do this, he may even get my vote in 2012.