With a new president taking office, I am reminded of the story of the three envelopes. As the outgoing president was leaving office, he told the incoming president that there were three envelopes in the lower drawer of the desk in the Oval Office. "I prepared those three envelopes for you. When you get into trouble, remember those envelopes."
After about six months the new president got into trouble with Congress. He remembered the envelopes, and opened the first one. It read: "Blame it on the previous administration." So he did, and the problems went away.
A year later the new president faced a major crisis. He once again remembered the envelopes. He opened the second one. It read: "Blame it on the previous president." He denounced his predecessor and blamed the current crisis on the previous president. Once again, his problems went away.
Then when we was running for his second term, the president once again found himself in trouble and wondered if he might be defeated at the polls. He remembered the envelopes. He opened the third envelope, and it read: "Prepare three envelopes."
Barack Obama will be tempted to blame many of the problems he faces as president on the previous administration. And he will no doubt even blame President Bush himself. For awhile, that may work. But sooner rather than later, he will realize that the buck does indeed stop in the Oval Office.
Like President Bush he will find that what he said on the campaign trail won't fly in the Oval Office. Remember that President Bush criticizes his predecessor for not having an exit strategy in Bosnia. That has come to be one of the biggest criticisms of his administration. President Bush also warned against using U.S. troops for "nation building." He has been engaged in such an endeavor in Iraq for these many years.
Barack Obama is sure to face many crises. While it will be tempting to blame the previous administration, he will still have to deal with them effectively.
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