Obama should listen to Wilder

by Jim Longworth

Last week, former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder said that the Obama administration needed an overhaul. In an editorial for, Wilder, the nation’s first elected African-American governor espoused a litany of Obama shortcomings, and suggested ways to correct them.

Chief among Wilder’s complaints is that the White House staff is made up of too many people left over from the campaign, and from Obama’s collection of old Chicago cronies.

Writes the governor: “Getting elected and getting things done for the people are two different jobs”. In addition to inexperience in governing, Wilder observed, “The deeper problem is that they are not listening to people. Hearing is one thing, listening is another.”

Wilder also laid blame for recent Democratic losses in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts at the door of his fellow Virginian, DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, who also once served as governor of the Old Dominion. “Shake-ups at the White House and at the top of the party are necessary if the president is to succeed,” wrote Wilder.

If anyone is qualified to tell Obama how to govern, it is Doug Wilder, and not just because they share a common skin color. Wilder is a self-made man who rose from being a shoeshine boy to being a waiter at an all-white country club, to winning a bronze star for bravery in Korea, to becoming a governor in the cradle of the Confederacy. Wilder was also one of the most accomplished state executives in the country, recognized for budget balancing in the wake of a major recession and passing the nation’s first handgun legislation which successfully curbed the “guns for drugs” trade along the I-95 corridor between Richmond and New York City.

Wilder accomplished these and many other initiatives because he had a vision, and the people around him shared in that vision. I was privileged to work with him on a number of projects, and I was always in awe of his talent and conviction. And unlike Obama, Wilder didn’t surround himself with party hacks, nor did he need a pit-bull Chief of Staff like Rahm Emanuel to do his bidding. Instead his gatekeeper, Glenn Davidson, was a mild-mannered man who helped the governor forge non-traditional political alliances, both inside and outside of the state. For example, Wilder served as chairman of the Southern Governor’s Association, where he expanded economic ties with Central America, opened trade with West Africa, helped lower the rate of infant mortality in the South and established a system of shared resources during times of natural disasters.

In comparison, Obama has squandered a super majority in the Senate; let Big Pharma and insurance companies obstruct substantive healthcare reform; escalated a war he pledged to get us out of; presided over bailouts that produced big bonuses for corrupt bankers; implemented a stimulus plan that has done nothing to abate unemployment; and failed to repeal or reform trade agreements that have sucked jobs out of America, and spit them out into third-world countries.

Doug Wilder once made a brief run for president in the 1992, but America was enamored with Bill

Clinton, and not yet ready to elect a black man to a very White House.

That’s too bad because Gov. Wilder would have made a good president. Nevertheless, he is now offering our current president some valuable advice, and Obama would do well to take heed.

Barack Obama ran a campaign that promised change, but thus far, he has failed to deliver on that promise. It’s time for our president to grow a pair, show some leadership and translate his oratory into action. In other words, it’s time for Barack Obama to morph into Doug Wilder. Now that’s change we could really believe in.

Jim Longworth is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Fridays at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 10 p.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).