The election left us with a status quo political lineup, one that failed to make any meaningful fiscal progress over the past two years. So is it realistic to expect that we can avoid the fiscal cliff and achieve some sort of “grand bargain”? Yes, it is possible, and here is how to do it:
First, President Barack Obama should form a “unity Cabinet” to demonstrate to the public and Congress that he wants to bring the nation together and accelerate progress on key challenges. It should include Democrats, Republicans and independents. All should be respected in both parties, have meaningful private-sector experience and credibility within and outside the Washington Beltway.
These criteria are especially critical when it comes to the president’s top economic team. Obama will almost certainly change the leadership at the Treasury Department, since Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has talked about leaving after the first term, and the Office of Management and Budget. Smart appointments could help reboot Obama’s relationships with Congress and increase the chance of success.
Since a unity Cabinet would include members outside the president’s party, who may not have supported his policies, these officials must be willing to accept the president’s agenda and vigorously promote it across the country ‑ after a healthy internal debate.
This “war cabinet” approach has been used by great leaders ‑ including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill ‑ during challenging times in the past. America’s deficit problem represents a serious national security threat that deserves similar bold leadership to rally the country.