Thursday, January 8, 2015

Obama should listen to Tennessee Republicans

by Chris Devaney, Charman TNGOP - Tennesseans know football. So when President Barack Obama recently acknowledged to reporters he was beginning the fourth quarter of his presidency, it caught our attention. While many of us would prefer him to take a knee, that's an unrealistic expectation for a president seeking to cement a legacy.

So let me humbly offer this advice to the president: If a memorable legacy is what you want, listen to Tennessee's leaders.

Why? Because something special is happening here. Americans increasingly view Tennessee as a state of opportunity. Our economy is becoming more diverse and individuals from all over the nation are choosing to relocate here. To paraphrase our state's Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty, 2015 is set to witness the strongest pipeline of economic development projects Tennessee has ever seen. That means more jobs and more opportunity for achievement. If only our nation could show these signs of strength like Tennessee.

With the right leadership, it could.

While here, the president will have the opportunity to meet with some of our Republican officials. If he would listen to them and take some cues from their respective leadership skill sets, our nation would be the better for it.

For example, he should try to emulate Sen. Lamar Alexander's wisdom with regard to health and education issues. Alexander tried to warn the president in 2010 about the negative effects of imposing a one-size-fits-all model to health care. Obama failed to listen, and he should not make the same mistake again. Now, Alexander has a plan to reduce the regulations facing schools and students that will make college more affordable. The president should support it.

Similarly, he should take guidance from Sen. Bob Corker, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Under Obama's watch, the world is adrift. Hardly a day goes by without a new crisis erupting. China and Russia have grown emboldened as the White House disengages. Even allies now question our commitment to being the responsible actor in the world. Corker believes America should not shrink from its responsibilities. Most importantly, he knows we cannot afford to equivocate on tough international matters. Corker has extended a hand to work with the White House. Obama should not ignore it.

The president should also take note of the revolution of ideas taking place in the state. He would do well to follow in the footsteps of our own governor. In his tenure, Bill Haslam has garnered a reputation for turning bold ideas into responsible solutions that have transformed Tennessee into an innovation engine. Haslam's steady hand and thoughtful leadership are attributes our nation could use right now.

In all likelihood, during this visit, Obama will recognize the success of Tennessee Promise — a program that dramatically increases accessibility to college for high school seniors. In fact, it should surprise no one if the president proposes a federal version of it. But to do so in any meaningful way, he would have to get America's financial situation to look more like Tennessee's prudent fiscal state.

You see, you can formulate unique policies — without spending and tax increases — only when a balanced budget is the norm, debt is low and you're atop the rankings for economic development. Washington hasn't had this type of fiscal discipline under Obama, and it would be a good place to start.

The fourth-quarter clock is ticking. If Obama is serious about creating a productive legacy, the conservative ideas to adopt and the gifted individuals to learn from are right here. For America's future, we'll be watching to see if he fumbles this opportunity.

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