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Commentary: Slow down, Mr. President

  • Story Highlights
  • Ed Rollins: Obama ran a disclipined marathon-style campaign to win election
  • He says that, in office, Obama is acting like a sprinter, moving very fast
  • Rollins: Is he moving fast due to crisis or to desire to greatly expand government?
  • He says if Obama wants much bigger government, taxpayers should worry
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By Ed Rollins
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Ed Rollins, who was political director for President Reagan, is a Republican strategist who was national chairman of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential campaign.

Ed Rollins says Obama should realize that running the country is a marathon, not a sprint.

Ed Rollins says Obama should realize that running the country is a marathon, not a sprint.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Every great athlete has a pace. A pace is a certain speed at which they can run for very long periods of time without damaging their bodies and wearing themselves out before the race is over.

President Obama showed a marathoner's pace when he took on the Democratic establishment and defeated Hillary Clinton in the long primary season campaign and still had enough left to finish off a tired John McCain in the general election. He was disciplined and executed the long-distance runner's strategy perfectly.

However, the new president has now become a sprinter, racing out of the blocks full speed ahead! A sprinter doesn't have to pace himself. He just uses every ounce of energy, power and speed to get himself to the finish line in the fastest time.

We know the president is running fast. He and the Congress have spent more money in a shorter period of time than ever in our history. And Congress seldom moves fast.

The problem we have is, we don't know after 50-plus days in office what the distance of the race is and what's the level of the president's pace or his endurance.

This is still a man we don't know. He gives the appearance of being cool under fire. We know he is smart, and we know he can give a good speech. Pollsters tell us the public likes him. Every president since Eisenhower has been liked at this stage of the game. But liking the man doesn't mean you like his policies.

We also don't know if he is a decision-maker. Can he prioritize? To date, he has been a man of motion. He has by the stroke of a pen -- through executive orders -- undone a lot of the Bush agenda, the same tactic Bush used to undo the Clinton agenda. That's his prerogative.

But the critical question is whether the president is in a fight or flight mode. Is he running fast because he is scared and thinks today's crisis necessitates immediate action, including reckless spending? Or, as I suspect, he is in a fight mode, and the fight is to change the course of this country toward bigger government and solving all problems at the federal level. If it's the latter, then I am very concerned, and every taxpayer should be, too.

The president should be scared. We are all scared, and he has more inside knowledge (or at least should have) than any of us. As a nation, we certainly have many problems. First and foremost, of course, is the financial crisis. The smartest people in and out of government don't have a clue when this thing is going to end or how much larger the nation's debt will get

The president and the Congress must do what they can to get the economy stabilized and growing again and to get people back to work. We should all support that.

We have a public education system and health care system that need major overhauls. Our roads and infrastructure need a lot of rebuilding. All of which costs trillions of taxpayer dollars, which we don't have. But these are problems that must be prioritized. There is not enough money to do them all, and it is dishonest to say there is.

We are in the mess we are in because, as individuals and corporations, we acted irresponsibly. We spent money we didn't have; neighbors bought houses they couldn't afford; corporations took risks they shouldn't have, and we are all paying the price now.

Doing the same thing at the federal level with tax dollars we don't have only guarantees that our children and their children will have to pay for it and have the quality of their lives diminished. President Obama needs to quit sprinting and get back in a marathon mindset. Fixing this country's problems is a long-term goal. Get the economy fixed, and then you can work on other things. Trying to do them all at once will result in many failures.

Being the fastest out of the blocks may not work if the race is long. I think this is a very long race. As I was taught many decades ago as a young athlete; "Victory comes to those with staying power!" We know the president has speed; we need to see if he has stamina.

And just a word of warning. The term "stay the course" seems to be the new adminstration slogan. President Reagan and the Republicans in Congress used the same term in the 1982 midterm elections. Republican lost 26 seats in the House.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.

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