Pres. Obama: Time to Push a Pawn

Monday - 7/20/2009, 10:45am EDT

Lurita Doan

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President Obama may need to sacrifice a pawn… soon. Bad economic news is piling up fast. Unemployment levels are rising. The Stimulus hasn't worked as advertised, and many Americans are worried that the Obama Administration may be juggling too many initiatives. Enter the Pawn.

Remember the chess pawn? Limited range of motion and often sacrificed for the greater good? Sacrificing a pawn at critical moments can reap big gains. A dead pawn buys time, diverts attention, and allows the bigger pieces a chance to reposition themselves. So, Team Obama may divert some attention from the mounting problems by pushing a pawn forward to take the fall.

A political pawn's purpose is simple. And there are two kinds of pawns--those who see it coming, and those who don't.

The typical, political pawn is unknowing, and, thus, surprised when his boss publicly gives him the axe and blames him for a failed initiative. When that occurs, as LBJ said: "it's like being a jacka** in a hailstorm, there's nothing to do but stand there and take it".

Unknowing pawns rarely recover from this kind of public dumping, and usually disappear, returning to their hometowns.

The second kind of pawn, the sentient political pawn knows it may be sacrificed, and has accepted the risks, perhaps out of loyalty, or a belief in the cause. Sentient pawns are keenly aware of the axe looming over their heads. They duck and dodge, weaving their way into as many essential issues and positions as possible, as a counter cure to getting the axe.

The sentient pawn is also a promotable pawn. As in chess, political pawns are the "lowliest piece", but can be promoted if they are wily enough and ambitious enough to survive. In chess, the only way to get promoted as a pawn is to work your way down the chess board, in an often complicated series of moves. In politics, it's no different.

Sacrificing the pawn, though regrettable, serves a purpose. For example, the pawn's termination may be the only way to appease the opposition, to give them "a head" on the chopping block. In those cases, the pawn has to be significant enough for the opposition to feel it got a head, but axing the pawn should, ideally, also solve one of the king's internal problems. Perhaps, the pawn is an individual who is advancing policy lines and issues that the Administration doesn't want to purse. In those cases, offering up the pawn serves everyone's best interests-except of course, the pawn's

But who are the pawns? Warren Buffet once said: "look around the room; if you can't identify the patsy, the patsy is you". Often, in meetings, there are unspoken questions: who is the pawn? When will he/she be sacrificed?

Perhaps someone from the Small Business Administration (SBA) might be a perfect pawn. Maybe, even Karen Mills, the head of the SBA? The Obama Administration is facing a growing animus as the Administration's anti-small business bias becomes increasingly obvious.

The clamor of small business owners continues to grow as it becomes clearer that the Obama Administration intends to increase taxes on small business and entrepreneurs to pay for all the new, governmental experiments in Energy and Healthcare. To divert attention, it may be time to sacrifice a pawn.

Since SBA employees recently crashed their computer system because too many, during office hours, were logged into the live data stream of Michael Jackson's funeral, that may provide just another justification.

Sacrificing this pawn might allow Obama to send a signal that bad behavior won't be tolerated, while providing flexibility to bring in new leadership with a more engaged approach to small businesses.

How about a sentient pawn? Ben Bernanke, the head of the Fed, is struggling to be a voice of reason in the mounting spending madness, but the Administration seems to be irritated that Bernanke's not playing along with the team. He's a carryover from the previous Administration which works against him, and allows Team Obama to continue efforts to pin all blame for the economic mess on the past administration.

Poorly-placed, isolated, sentient pawns, with no friendly pawns nearby, cannot retreat to a more favorable position, so we see Bernanke striving to make the media rounds, preaching to the choir: the Business community and Wall Street, his natural allies. Maybe he can protect himself, maybe not.

Regardless, the Obama economic plan isn't working. Each set of stats released puts the Administration increasingly in the hot seat. History suggests they are going to have to sacrifice a pawn soon.