Friday, May 1, 2009

100 Days: From one young executive to another

Dear Mr. President

Last night at dinner I remarked to my fellow citizens that I have been truly taken aback by the last 100 days of your Presidency. These 100 days have shocked me in true and real ways that no childish posters about you being an "Al-Qaeda plant" or "Native Kenyan" ever could.

In thinking about a meaningful discussion of these past 3 months, I thought it might be relevant to frame it within the context of reaching my 3rd anniversary as a full-fledged employer and young executive, which I will reach in a little under 100 days. You purport to be the friend of the small businessman, so please take this letter to be a contribution to your ever-burgeoning knowledge of, and empathy with, my class.

I suppose I'll begin at the end, by telling you the two most important lessons I've learned as a young executive in the last 3 years:

1. Focus. One of your large corporate campaign contributors (both as a company and reflected in the contributions of individual employees), Google, prides itself on doing "one thing well." When I was a two-man operation with my partner Scott Tidwell, I had no overhead, no office, and no worries. We worked off referrals and had a grand old time. We were able to handle academic tutoring, test prep, and even college counseling. When we moved to Kansas and decided to be the big name in test prep in Kansas City, we realized almost immediately that we had to drop academic tutoring (too many competitors willing to work for next to nothing) and college counseling (too many counselors we wanted as friends and allies rather than enemies and competitors). We even subdivided our focus within test prep. Rather than take on Kaplan on the only real profit center they had in town, graduate test prep, and all the expensive computer databasing that would entail (in order to offer competitive prep in grad programs), we focused on being the best high school test prep in Kansas City. Even from there, we realized that Kansas City was a large amalgam and that we had to focus on dominating Johnson County before being able to reach the outlying suburbs of Lee's Summit and the Northland. Three years later, expensive lessons behind us, we have learned the lesson of focus, and we are prospering. But we didn't know this coming in, despite the fact that we had been in the industry several years.

2. The Virtue of Saying No. Whenever you're trying to make an impact with a group of people who don't know you, and when you're possessed of great energy, zeal, and staff, you don't want to say "No." "No" is negative. "No" means you can't. "No" is giving up. So I said "Yes" until I realized what colossal folly I had stumbled into. Board meetings for boards I didn't have to belong to. Chamber events that weren't mission critical. Networking groups and organizations from which our company derived zero referrals, despite my dynamic "working of the room." I finally posted signs throughout my office with the simple word: "No." I realized that "No" is not negative. I realized that "No" allowed me to do Lesson #1, which was Focus. I realized that "No" was really a much deeper "Yes" to something else.

So let's talk about where we can apply these lessons, which were expensive and hard-earned under your spendthrift anything-but-fiscally-responsible disgrace of a predecessor, to your own Presidency.

Focus.

You have come into office with an agenda that would make the most energetic of executives blanch. You've promised health care for all, continued safety against terrorists, improved diplomacy abroad, a better budget, more money and relief for college students, more money and relief for the poor and oppressed, "fairer" taxes by raising them on those who produce jobs for everyone else, etc. Do you truly believe you can accomplish all this? If you did, I surely hope that this bong smoke disappeared in the frightening red reality of our monetary crisis, in which your appointed dummy, Tim Geithner, has continued to make a fool of himself and you to this day and hour. He will be your Rumsfeld unless you wise up. I fear you will not.

Focus.

Nothing goes without the economy. Realize that bailing out AIG helps generate no new jobs, and in fact, doesn't even help keep them. Realize that "too big to fail" is a bogeyman whispered to you by discredited frauds who have nothing to lose and everything to gain from your (remember, that's our money) loans. Instead of a stimulus bill that spreads out like shotgun shell by trying to do everything (do we see a pattern here?) fire a rifle shot. Ask anyone for advice, but don't ask Tim Geithner or Larry Summers or Robert Reich - all of these ass-clowns never predicted the fall, and their remedies have been combinations of taking care of old friends, repatching up the failed system, and preserving the status quo.

Remember your evocative quote during the 3rd debate with the dead man walking masquerading as your Republican opponent in which you talked about taking a "scalpel" to our budget and the pain and precision that would entail? Where is the scalpel now? Sir, a blunt instrument is a very poor substitute for a scalpel. We have a cancer, and we need it out. We are willing to deal with the pain now to have a healthier economy later. This death by a thousand cuts is much worse, because most Americans don't even believe, don't even know, that we are dying. They subscribe to the myth, propped up by you, that we can just keep spending forever, that spending has no consequences, and that the world is ready, willing, and able to serve as our forever creditor.

Focus.

Realize that we can't exercise a coherent foreign policy by trying to tackle everything at once. For starters, realize that you only fight a war on two fronts by necessity, not by choice.

The Virtue of Saying No.

Say "No" to Bush-era policies of torture, secret prisons, rendition, wars on words that can never be won, and endless unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don't believe the narrative of 24 that all intelligence gained by torture is actionable, timely, accurate, and complete. Remember the Reinhold Niebuhr you told David Brooks was important to you and reflect upon the moral implications of torture, and the dangerous semantic game of inventing new words for old practices I'm worried you're already slipping into.

The Virtue of Saying No.

End your escalation in Afghanistan which will surely become your Iraq.

The Virtue of Saying No.

End your Bush-era foreign policy, characterized by a hawkish persona at State - Secretary Clinton who supported the unnecessary war in Kosovo that her husband initiated, as well as the untenable Russophobic stance in a world that finds NATO not only irrelevant, but more importantly, a blunt instrument (remember that blunt instrument discussion from earlier) in the hands of an America that doesn't seem to grasp just how quickly and decisively Russia dealt with Georgia after those Georgians (probably inspired by our "advisors" over there) invaded South Ossetia and murdered hundreds of civilians before Russia could come to its rescue.

The Virtue of Saying No.

End an Israel-first policy that treats that nation like a single mother. End its 3 billion dollars a year in foreign aid that cripples the Israelis as a people and make them realize, just like anyone else, they are going to have to live with their neighbors peaceably. They will find a way. Indeed, Yithzak Rabin might have done precisely that, had not one of his own, a Jew, killed him. End the kowtowing to the shameless Israel lobby, so ably and shamefully led by the never-to-be-prosecuted spy against the United States, Steve Rosen, former head of AIPAC. Remember that you once used the word "occupation" to refer to Israel's unreasonable treatment of people they consider second-class citizens. Make them realize that with their declining birthrate, a new apartheid in the promised land will not win them new friends among Arabs, among whom they so desperately need to cultivate such relationships.

The Virtue of Saying No.

Say "No" to endless spending that will not only indebt our nation for centuries to come, but will surely bankrupt us in the present.

The Virtue of Saying No.

Say "No" to funding abortions abroad. Is it our place to do this? With the taxpayer dollars of citizens morally opposed to it?

Mr. President, if three years of being a junior executive, of running a company of fewer than ten employees, have taught me these two lessons, I am also assured that the lessons are scalable upwards, to the dizzing heights of your office, and that these two rules, the idea of Focus, and the Virtue of Saying No, can work with a nation of 300 million as well. I know you're a new executive too. You've had a lot of experience, like I have, in doing everything but that, but now you've come to realize, as I did, that being an executive is a whole different ballgame. And whatever head start I had on you prior to January 20th, heck, prior to November 4th, you've been in the hot seat for a while now, and the cauldron of the chair in the Oval Office makes a man "get it" pretty quickly, so I know you know what I'm talking about.

Good night, Mr. President. And Good luck. I'd say to pray to Christ, but your recent actions at Georgetown showed that's not something I should ask you to do. But whether or not you believe in Christ, He believes in you. And, that won't stop me from praying for you. The head of our country needs prayers more than anyone else, save the Pope. So here's one person, at least, who prays for you, and that you will be guided by Truth and Justice in all your decisions. I remain,

Most Sincerely

Stephen Heiner
American Citizen

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