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Obama's big win, and big embrace

Tough times will require the new president to rally even his political opponents.

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Barack Obama once told a journalist that the one book he would bring to the White House – besides the Bible – would be a bestseller about President Lincoln's inclusive leadership style, titled "Team of Rivals."

The book's author, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, makes the case that by bringing political opponents into his cabinet, Lincoln could hear dissenting voices, turn his enemies into allies, and lead the country through its greatest crisis.

As bad as the economy may appear right now, Americans are not warring with each other – though it has sometimes felt that way in these years of political polarization.

Still, a historic election that delivered America's first African-American president coincides with a historic period of severe challenge. These times require teamwork between the parties.

Given the gains by Democrats in Congress and their recapture of the White House after eight years, it might be tempting for the victors to say "my turn," and then plow ahead without regard to the other side.

But the national sacrifice needed to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow will not be small, and will affect all Americans. Thus, the leadership to steer through these crises must embrace all Americans.

If the US is to conclude two land wars and revive its military, rescue its fragile economy, raise educational performance, reduce greenhouse gases, move away from oil, rebuild its crumbling infrastructure, and – need a breath? – make healthcare more widely available and affordable, it will necessitate more than turning down the thermostat (a lifestyle change suggested by Obama).

A looming trillion-dollar deficit and a ballooning debt signal tough choices ahead, including finally touching the untouchables: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.


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