Sunday, November 23, 2008

Greatness Watch

Well this entire week was about one thing if you even think about politics: Obama's Cabinet. And from my point of view, so far so (very!) good. I mean, yeah you can pull the Team of Rivals thing. You have Biden (VP), Clinton (SOS), Richardson (SOC). They all ran against him; some too little success (Biden, Richardson) and others coming very close (Clinton), but all still falling short. But I tend to think of it as a Cabinet of Equals. Barack Obama wants and needs smart and capable people, and he does not need to always know everything or be the smartest in the room. And that is always a big plus; humility always is.

David Brooks sums up a lot of what I'm thinking in his Friday column:
"And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.

The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.


As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory. One may not agree with them on everything or even most things, but a few things are indisputably true.

First, these are open-minded individuals who are persuadable by evidence. Orszag, who will probably be budget director, is trusted by Republicans and Democrats for his honest presentation of the facts.

Second, they are admired professionals. Conservative legal experts have a high regard for the probable attorney general, Eric Holder, despite the business over the Marc Rich pardon.

Third, they are not excessively partisan. Obama signaled that he means to live up to his postpartisan rhetoric by letting Joe Lieberman keep his committee chairmanship.

Fourth, they are not ideological. The economic advisers, Furman and Goolsbee, are moderate and thoughtful Democrats. Hillary Clinton at State is problematic, mostly because nobody has a role for her husband. But, as she has demonstrated in the Senate, her foreign-policy views are hardheaded and pragmatic. (It would be great to see her set of interests complemented by Samantha Power’s set of interests at the U.N.)

Finally, there are many people on this team with practical creativity. Any think tanker can come up with broad doctrines, but it is rare to find people who can give the president a list of concrete steps he can do day by day to advance American interests. Dennis Ross, who advised Obama during the campaign, is the best I’ve ever seen at this, but Rahm Emanuel also has this capacity, as does Craig and legislative liaison Phil Schiliro.

Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving O-phoria now sweeping the coastal haute bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype."

Sorry to quote so much, but he just packed a lot into those fews grafs.

Now many are also talking about how could Obama and Clinton ever work together? On and on and on, but is everyone forgetting who is the President? And are you really smarter than Barack Obama, and you are calling out Obama for his choices?

And a few people (me included) were a little pissed (at least at first) that Hillary was getting the Secretary of State job. I mean, the crown jewel! 4th in line in the presidential line of succession!!! But then I took a breath. I wanted Bill Richardson at State, and it seems he is going to instead be at Commerce. But Secretaries of State don't normally stay longer than 4 years. So when, in all likelihood, Clinton steps down at State, Richardson can get the State job while Clinton thinks about running for president in 2016. Clinton would only be 69 on Inauguration Day 2017. While Reagan was also 69 when elected (the oldest President elected) he was less than a month away from his 70th birthday. Hillary would be 69 years and 3 months old to Reagan's 69 years and 11 months.

(And being at Commerce, then State could really put a great face on Richardson's chance at the Presidency. He would only be 69 years and 2 months old on January 20, 2017.)

And they all say Clinton will do everything her-way-or-the-highway style, "pursue[ing] their own agenda -- political and policy-wise -- rather than advocate for the president-elect's preferred issues." It is in the interest of Clinton to follow the leader, as that is how you do the job best. But behind closed doors she can unload all she wants. I'm guessing Obama understands this all too well. And just like in a clip from The West Wing (which is embedded below) they must have worked out a deal for her to plead her case to him till she's blue in the face, but afterwards going out and towing the line 110%. And, call me naive, but isn't that kinda how the government should work?

And to those moaning about the lack of change, too many Clinton people, or the general 'here we go again' meme that always happens with a new President, calm down. People always run on change, not many as much as Barack Obama though, and then the media says little change actually happened. I would say things have changed from Ford to Carter to Reagan to Bush 41 to Clinton and then changed under Bush 43. And in there were really a lot of the same people (Powell, Cheney, Rumsfeld, ect). But what counts is who was in charge.

Point being Reagan and Bush 41. They had a lot of the same people stay on, but it was a very different thing. So it will be with Clinton and Obama. Just think: Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama. All presidents (as of Jan 20, 2009) and it was only twenty years ago this started. 20 years of Bushes and Clinton. Now maybe new leadership can really lead Washington rather than follow Washington. I love Clinton, but Washington led him around by his nose, his hand, or his dick.

While many talk about Obama and both Clinton's as rivals, you have to remember the general election when both Bill and Hillary were in lock step with him. And why would that be different now? They are a team. She's a smart enough and tough enough to not undercut Obama publicly and keep the heat on him in private; like any good SOS. And Bill is smart enough not to piss off Hillary. Remember, his dick. Bill is even opening himself up to oversight and control from Obama so Hillary can get the job. Remember, don't make Hillary mad Bill; it all about his dick.

And speaking of Hillary Clinton, does The West Wing win yet another award at predicting the future? I mean, yeah, she's not from the other party, but she was his bitter rival.

It's just funny. The West Wing was on the cutting edge of where America was going. Like dead on.

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