Greetings from Orlando, where I’m attending the 2009 NAIFA Convention and Career Conference. I’m here in part to interview 2009 John Newton Russell Memorial Award winner Larry M. Lambert, CLU, CFP, RFC, chairman of LBL Insurance Services in Long Beach, Calif. Lambert received one of the industry’s very top honors at a gala event Tuesday night. You can read more about Lambert and the keys to his success in the October issue of Life Insurance Selling.

Being here also offers the opportunity to attend a variety of educational seminars and hear some top-flight speakers. One of the featured speakers during Tuesday morning’s main platform was Michael Duffy, chief political correspondent for TIME magazine. The beltway insider offered his insight into the Obama administration, which just hit the 250-day mark in office.

Duffy pointed out five ways of understanding Obama:

  1. He’s rolling the dice with health care reform, tackling a politically risky and dangerous issue, very early on in his term. Duffy also said he is relying that the economy will come back around prior to 2012 election season.
  2. Expectations. Duffy said Obama is not as liberal as his enemies had warned or as liberals had hoped. He hasn’t strayed from Bush’s timetable for pulling out of Iraq. Hasn’t intervened in the gay marriage issue. He’s holding stimulus money from school districts who don’t grade teachers.
  3. The speech. Duffy points out Obama’s deep faith in his ability to give a compelling speech – something he has carried through his campaign right into office. “He is trying to stretch the art of campaigning into the currency of governing,” Duffy said. “Can he use those skills that worked so well in campaigning? We’re going to find out.”
  4. Obama faces an opposition that is not at the top of its game. Duffy said that when people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and now Joe Wilson are in the Republican spotlight, the GOP is clearly having major identity issues. He likened the state of the Republican party to where the Democrats were back in 1992, and that they might need “a couple cycles” to get it turned around. But he stressed that the GOP does need to get it turned around because our system needs two viable parties. He also mentioned that Obama has benefitted from the current shortcomings of the Republican party.
  5. The Obama administration makes for an “undramatic” White House. “Much to my disappointment, they don’t fight much… They are operating at a fairly high RPM and are not leaking – I hate that,” Duffy said. He also mentioned that at this point, we don’t really know what Obama is willing to fight for. “We don’t know if he’s willing to make enemies… What’s non-negotiable? We don’t know yet.” A good example Duffy brought up is that we don’t really know if Obama wants a public option as part of the health care reform package or not, hinting that he thought Obama would throw it under the bus if he thought the rest of the package would pass.

Interesting observations. As for me, it’s time to get off the computer and back into seminars. As Larry Lambert told me this morning, “I was convinced a long time ago that education was the key in anybody’s success.”