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Brazile: 4 ways Obama can take control to get America back on track

By Donna Brazile, Special to CNN
  • The country is looking for President Obama to take control over the economic crisis
  • His cabinet can play a role in swaying public opinion
  • He should use his executive power to affect fiscal policy

Editor's note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee, a nationally syndicated columnist and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. She was manager for the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000 and wrote "Cooking With Grease."

Ever since Republicans in Congress held our country hostage to the brink of default, there has been an ongoing discussion about how President Obama can reassert control over the American economy.

These arguments have often centered around how Obama can get the GOP to "come around" and "find common ground."

Now, folks know I'm all for civility. The framers of the Constitution built us a government that forces people to talk to each other. But in a time of economic crisis, when one party completely shuts itself down to compromise, and Congress decides to obstruct every piece of legislation that reflects the consensus of public opinion, sometimes the president needs to take matters into his own hands.

The president certainly shouldn't walk away from the negotiating table. But he needs to make it clear that he will take bold action if Congress continues to ignore what needs to be done.

Here are four options available to him, right now:

1. Empower his Cabinet: A story on Thursday reported that the White House is going to begin releasing new job creation ideas each week. This is a good start, but President Obama needs to develop an economic action plan with his Cabinet that he can implement strictly through the exercise of executive power. This has the added political benefit of getting the president's bipartisan Cabinet members like Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on TV, making Republicans in Congress look even less reasonable. And speaking of executive power...

2. Don't be afraid to be an executive: If President George W. Bush used the argument of the "unitary executive" to justify warrantless wiretapping and torture, surely President Obama can wield executive power to put Americans back to work while Congress dithers on. There's a big toolbox available, and the president needs to get aggressive in using it.

3. Flex monetary muscle: During the debt ceiling debate, some legal scholars pointed out that while the Treasury is limited in terms of how much paper money it can print, there is no such limit on the minting of coinage. They jokingly recommended the government could mint two $1 trillion coins and deposit them in the government's coffers to help pay off the debt. While this certainly isn't a real option, it goes to show how much authority the executive branch has on monetary policy.

4. Acknowledge the bully pulpit has changed: Because of the ever-shortening attention span exemplified by Twitter and the 24/7 political news media, the power of the presidency as a mover of public opinion has been diminished. However, the president still has a lot of power to cajole public and private entities into action. Whether that's persuading banks to lend, corporations to hire, or public and private institutions to reorganize, the president needs to hit the phones. Even if cold calls have been fruitless before, persistence is a virtue.

The president has spent a lot of time trying to shake and rattle this divided Congress into action. The American people don't seem to blame him for trying. With a 14% approval rating, Congress is clearly taking the brunt of the public's anger.

The American people have written off Congress this term, so should the president. Instead of finger-wagging, the president needs to take the public unhappiness as a mandate to take bold executive action.

The American people don't care about "Super Congresses" or the slasher movie taking place on Capitol Hill. They want a bold president who can lead them to new jobs and a recovery they can feel on Main Street.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.