By Carol Gee
New job duties -- There are a lot of changes in Washington these days. Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa), will have a different position on the opposite side of the aisle. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attended her first cabinet meeting this morning. Key positions in her department are still vacant, along with several in the Justice Department. Supreme Court Justice David Souter (surprise liberal) is retiring in June. Speculation about his replacement is already ramping up, along with the Republicans' potential opposition tactics.
New challenges --With personnel changes come opportunities for their majority party Democratic bosses. But there is no question who is leading the nation. President Obama has both influence and authority in generous proportions*. And he is staffing his administration with personnel who are very smart and competent. And, no doubt, the next Supreme Court Justice will be chosen with the same kind of principled skill as the President had exhibited since taking office.
New people will be taking over Senator Specter's former Republican committee jobs. Many Republicans are not willing to deal with their new national party chairman, Michael Steele. A new Republican body is getting into gear for finding the new direction for the future. And a myriad of unofficial Republican leaders change power-up or power-down positions weekly.
New pressures -- Majority Leader Harry Reid will have a huge challenge, in my opinion, if he insists on putting Senator Specter in a key chairmanship in the front of a line of long-serving Democrats. The morning after being sworn in, Secretary Sebelius was forced in front of the cameras with Secretary Nanapolitano by her boss, to guide the nation through a threatened flu pandemic. Attorney General Eric Holder will probably be tasked by his boss to "vett" the possible Supreme Court appointees. And when the new justice comes on the court Chief Justice Roberts will be in charge of a completely "new" court, in terms of its dynamics.
New shifts -- With the steep losses suffered by Republicans, their leaders are faced with very different challenges. There are too few leaders and too many would-be leaders from among those who have no business there. Too many Republicans aspire to lead by influence rather than the authority of an actual position. Those left in authority who are not good leaders will be swept aside in the scrambles, losing the loyalty of those who should be following them. Divided and demoralized, their bosses must inspire their followers to unite around common goals, learning in the process to become the "loyal opposition."
New organization -- The cohort continues to shrink. And those losses are a reality is risking our country's well-being. So I am glad the old heads are gathering together to offer leadership to "The National Council for a New America," and fractious House Minority Whip Eric Cantor should be recognized for starting the process.
New personnel always challenge their bosses, not on purpose but because they are new. Once they have been hired and go through orientation, they need to feel welcomed and accepted in the organization. It is up to the President/CEO and the community representatives/board of directors to set the tone for taking in new people. It is yet another leadership capacity that the Democrats seem to have, and the Republicans seem to have lost. In a way I feel for them.
*Bonus feature from The Huffington Post: "300 Photos From Obama's First 100 Days: Behind The Scenes"
(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)
Labels: Arlen Specter, Barack Obama, Congress, Democratic Party, government, leadership, Republican Party, Republicans