Insufficient Presidential Leadership –

Strange to start a list of problems with Congress by pointing the finger at another branch of government, perhaps. But one of the main problems of Congress is the lack of presidential leadership: for better or for worse, the president is a major element of the national political agenda.

“The president is always the leader,” said former Rep. Dan Glickman (D) of Kansas, who also served as secretary of agriculture in the Clinton administration and president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America. It is up to the president to define “where the direction of the country will go. Congress can tinker with it or Congress can shut it down. You can’t talk about Congress without talking about the president.

Much like members of Congress, presidents often seek advantage by campaigning as “outsiders” untainted by time in Washington, D.C. Although that doesn’t mean presidents can’t work effectively with insiders. accomplished, what Congress needs is a president with a plan. Without an executive branch committed to working with Congress, the possibility of politically perilous legislation crossing the finish line with the president’s signature fades to black.

President George W. Bush and President Obama both came to Washington hoping to change Washington’s culture, said former Representative Vin Weber (right) of Minnesota, now a top lobbyist and a GOP fundraiser. They just went about it the wrong way.

“They thought they could do it through strength of personality,” says Weber. “You have to have real honest-to-God political skills, and you have to work at it every day.

“The next president has to realize, ‘This is a political problem from the ground up, and I have to make real plans to achieve bipartisanship,'” he adds.

The president who understood? “We achieved a lot under Bill Clinton,” Weber says. “It wasn’t because there was no partisanship. But Clinton understood how to work the process.

Kevin E. Boling